We finally figured out the mystery of the gnats/fruit flies/whatever-the-heck-those-little-things-were that invaded our house at Christmastime and made the first weeks of winter more miserable for us than usual.
It was the rotten potatoes.
Saturday morning I made my usual trip to the grocery. As I was picking up a bag of potatoes, I had a case of deja vu; I remembered that in the not-too-distant past, I had bought a 5-lb. bag of taters and could not remember what had happened to them. I shrugged it off and carried on with the business at hand.
At home, I started to put the new bag away into my trusty wooden potato-and-onion bin. Now, I've known for a while that my bin is not really the best place to store my root vegetables. It's really become just a nice little piece of furniture and shelving for my smallest dining-room wall. It sits right next to a vent, so hot air blows on it in the winter. It also has a plastic see-through front on the drawers, and it faces out into our sunniest room, so sunlight comes in on the vegetables. Potatoes and onions generally don't last very long in direct light and heat, so I don't use the bin for its intended purpose much.
When I peeped into the bottom drawer, I could see an old bag of potatoes in there. They were sitting in a puddle of black goo. Crap. I DID buy a bag recently, and I didn't use them all, and they went bad. And apparently dissolved. Double crap.
Double crap, indeed. When I opened the drawer, a swarm of gnats came out, Mummy-style. We've been vexed by these gnats since mid-December; I blamed them on the poinsettias I had bought for the holidays. They might have come with the poinsettias, but they stayed for the potato goo.
Then the smell hit me. And oh my God, the smell. It was the smell of death. Of organic matter returning to the earth. It was a hundred sewage drains all concentrated into one little drawer of intensified rot. The drawer had mercifully kept the smell from invading my house as the potatoes liquified and turned into baby food for fruit-fly maggots, but once the drawer opened...the nastiness was unleashed.
And that's when the gagging started.
I thought quickly and grabbed an empty grocery bag and threw the potatoes in and tied it up tight. I hollered for Jason and, while retching over the kitchen sink, told him to (rolf) carry the whole bin out (blurp) to the trash (blech) because we'd never (guuuulp) be able to get the smell out.
Of course he laughed.
In 30-degree temperatures, every window in the house was opened and Lysol, Fabreeze, and Oust all got employed in the immediate area. Ainsley was ushered back to her room; if I could have wrapped us in haz-mat suits, I would have.
After the bin was carried outside, and the bag of potatoes was disposed of, the smell went away and life resumed. And the new bag of potatoes is being stowed in a cool, dark spot in the kitchen. At least I learn from my mistakes, fabulously stupid though they might be.
Now there is a piece of furniture missing in our dining room; the gaping hole on our smallest wall feels like a lost tooth that I keep running my tongue over. I have no idea what to put there, (NOT another potato and onion bin, natch) and no idea if I can hold out until our new Ikea store opens in March, as has been suggested to me. (Look out, Ikea! Here come the Cincinnatians!)
I do know that I have learned a lesson.
Where there is a fruit-fly invasion, there is fruit. And that fruit just might be turning into a plague-like abomination.