Ricky Kresslein

What It's Like To Live In An Organic House


Many days, the first thing that happens after I get out of bed is I catch a spider web with my face. It is not at all a pleasant way to start the morning, and my first words of the day are often curses or, when I'm in an oddly happy mood, a laugh. However, the angry brushing of my face and limbs to remove the sticky cobweb is equal to the strongest caffeine when it comes to removing the fog of sleep from its position around my brain.

Next, as I'm drinking my coffee or meditating, a wasp might dive bomb me from the ceiling. If I am lucky it will land a few feet from me and I will smash it with my water bottle before it can fly away. If fortune has decided not to favor me that particular morning, it might land on me and force me to swat it off before it can remember that it has an excellent defense mechanism capable of causing enormous pain to an animal approximately one-thousand times the size of itself.

If neither of those occur, than I am almost certain to find a brand new swarm of ants, approximately two-thousand of them, making a brand new home in my luxurious bure (Fijian thatched house). They might be nesting on the wall or on a tree trunk that serves as a pillar of support to my walls and roof. No matter how many of them I slaughter with an easy press of my finger on the nozzle of an aerosol can, they will not learn. It will happen again, at least once every week, in my house or my bathroom. I will once again sweep up their corpses and toss them into the wind. I will not allow even thousands of these puny lives weigh on my conscience.

Later in the day I might spill some oil on my woven mat. The creases between the woven leaves make cleanup nearly impossible, so even though I will wipe it up, I know some still lingers. But I do not worry about it, because I know my ants will come to the rescue. They will swarm the area until every last drop of oil is licked dry and the mat is clean. This is my struggle with the ants. Sometimes your best friends can become your worst enemies.

Occasionally, as I kill wasps throughout the day, usually around ten of them, I have to make a decision. Do I throw them outside and let the chickens eat them, or do they pile them up so I can count how many yellow and black scalps I've taken? If I do the later, the pile of bodies will be swarming with ants by the time the sun goes down and I record my kill count. Often times this leads to two different factions of ants warring over the feast. I have sat and watched this miniature battle for nearly an hour in the past, and I do not consider a single second of that time wasted. I was learning, and being entertained. The whole time I could only think of Henry David Thoreau watching a similar scene in his wood shed, and I understood how he had become completely engrossed in the epic campaign.

At night, I might look around the roof for roaches that have prematurely evacuated their hiding spaces. If I find them, I spray them with the same weapon I use against the ants, or I smash them to save time and money. There bodies must similarly be thrown to the wind or fed to the ants. I prefer the former with these creatures, as Oriental Cockroaches in particular have a vile odor. I take this much time hunting these suckers down so that I never have to go through the experience of waking up to one curled around my genitals like the ugliest of lovers ever again.

It is not easy living in a house that is completely alive in many ways. But it is a truly amazing experience. It is something that I wanted to do for a long time. Years before I came to Peace Corps, I added “Live in a primitive dwelling for a year” to my bucket list. Now I have crossed it off. Although I sometimes lust after the comforts of a royal suite with a hot shower, memory foam mattress, zero wildlife, and maids rather than ants to clean up after me, I would not trade my two years in this bure for anything in the world. I hate it sometimes, but I always love it.