A Tale of Two Houses and One Garden

So, I have the Beach House, which is my new rental property, and, the House of Mouldy Horrors, where all my stuff still is. Here’s the freaky thing: when I went back to The House of Mouldy Horrors, I couldn’t believe the smell: a strong chemical-bleach-like overpowering, chocking, noxious odour hit me when I walked in. It was so strong; I could taste it.

(Synethesia anyone?)

Within half an hour, all my symptoms hit me in a rush: symptoms I’ve had to live with, progressively worsening over the last two years (dating back beyond February 2013), these flooded throughout my body, rising up until my eyes, nose, throat were dry and caked up, my eyes stinging like vinegar were in them (it’s the dryness), my nostrils, stinging to breathe through, my scalp and skin crawling with its itchy rash, and finally my ears felt aeroplane-blocked and itchy. And the emotional reaction? I can’t describe it—yet.  And still, I can’t believe the smell that’s embedded in some of my clothing and possessions that I’ve bought from there. (Especially after being washed, and while wet. They stink: these things I’ll give away to charity.) I don’t have a lot here with me. I’ve had to borrow money and buy new bedding (first my hammock, then my mattress (Yes, another one! Which I’ll blog about soon.)), new pyjamas, and all metal shelving, cane furniture, and a beautiful glass desk where I can write:

Yes, I don’t have a lot—just the beginning of my health coming back; but after what I’ve been through, it is everything.

I can breathe through my nose, and it doesn’t hurt; the bruising around my eyes is gone (I was once told that this bruising is called an ‘allergic shiner’, you know, like a black eye; yet, this one is caused by allergies (or, rather, allergy-like symptoms). I can feel my nervous system calming down; generally, smells are not as strong anymore, meaning, on a neurological level, my nervous system is calming down also. Even my digestive system has settled (this is due to an elimination diet, though).

There are chemicals here that are a problem: I’m on a main-ish road that trucks use to get into town: diesel is a huge problem for me, but it’s something that I can work around by avoiding it. If I get up at six am, I can open up the house until 9 am, then, if the wind direction is right, I can leave just the back of the house open for most of the day. So there I am, outside, early in the mornings, tending to my bonsais, watching my dog sun herself, and pottering about in the yard. Because I can’t expose myself to mould, I can’t dig, or muck up the way I’d really love to while out in the garden. It seems that it was eons ago when I was making compost and no-dig garden beds on an organic farm. Yet, it was only three years ago. Why was my body not effected by Apergillus or Cladosporium mould spores then? Especially, seeing that for five years previously, since this ‘challenge’ hit me, it was chronically effected by mould? I don’t know the answer to that; apart from it could be crammed somewhere in among the theories that either my body detoxified itself, or my immune system healed itself or, this new theory I have: maybe I had managed to avoid the ‘triggers’ that caused my system to react and reject nearly every chemical I came in contact with, therefore, my body healed? I’ve blogged before about how fragrances and spray deodorants still effected me, but not the mould elements of that recovery–so therein lies the hope that one day, not too far into the future, I will be outside in my wellingtons, breathing in the beautiful scent of my collection of flowers, brushing my hair away from face while accidentally wiping mud across my forehead. And with that, I will be happy!

I love gardening and plants. Here are some shots from where I am:

Mexican Orange Blossom, planted by the owners of the property

Mexican Orange Blossom, planted by the owners of the property

I can’t wait until this one blooms. At the moment I’m not good with natural scents, but I guess that little fact makes a fantastic measuring stick to be used to show the progress of my recovery. (So does being able to cook in the house, and many other things that aggregate my sinuses at the moment: cooking broccoli, someone else eating canned fish, canned dog food: normal everyday things that I have placed a ban on around here. Then there are the chemicals, which cause the inflammation of my sinuses… )

The two dragons we found in a second hand shop

The two dragons we found in a second hand shop

These two dragons are so Game of Thrones, yes? (Gladly, from a writerly perspective, I have no television here, yet here I am, still obsessed with the series: Game of Thrones!) Here they are guarding a topiary tree, which is related to the fig family. And, below that is one of my favourite bonsais (they are all my favourite, really); this one is special because I bought it as a gift last year for finishing the first semester of Myths and Symbols at Victoria University. It was terribly hard to do, and I was awfully sick, so I had to get myself something for sticking it out (I did not make it through my second semester (at school; I did it at home), and, a whole forest of bonsais couldn’t have got me through it!):

Poetically, this bonsai is a miniature species of the one above it

Poetically, this bonsai is a miniature species of the tree above it

And this is the massive tree in my front yard that I have fallen in love with. The birdlife in the mornings is worth getting up for. Selfishly, I’ve provided them with some drinking and bathing water, hoping that the parrots and galahs will come down for visit:


Complete with bird bath

And finally:

A reminder that fungi, moulds and yeasts are a natural part of life: it's about balance

A reminder that fungi, moulds and yeasts are a natural part of life: Like most things, it’s about balance though. I gotta get some…

At the House of Mouldy Horrors, sadly, through the windows, I watched my garden, and many of my bonsais die around me. I couldn’t go outside at all; and if not for my wonderful daughter, I wouldn’t have any plants left to marvel over at this beautiful Beach House. Such is the strength, compassion, and tenacity of our unsung heroes.


Michellina Van Loder is a Professional Writer, Journalist and Blogger. This is where she shares her tales about trail blazing her way out of the Labyrinth of Chemical Sensitivities and Mould. This is also where you will find the latest Research on related topics.

About Michellina van Loder


  1. I am glad to see the plants but sorry that you are still struggling between two houses. Take care.

    • Michellina Van Loder says:

      Thank you. Things have improved though: at least I’ve got a few days per week where I’m not snowed under with illness. Oh, but this house makes me want to scream [Argg!] That said, I’m so closed to finishing packing up. :)

  2. Your garden is looking nice, like the big Mexican Orange blossom, and especially the bonsai one. Wish you didn’t go back into the mouldy house, maybe get someone to get your items out for you to sort outside where you at least have some chance to keep back from them.
    I always thought that the dark circles under the eyes were more from lack of oxygen, but I know it’s combined with sensitivities.
    Love your dragons. I have just gotten some Snake plants, to help clean the air, but I had to re-pot as I was worried about/if they had those water absorbing pellets/crystals which they use in baby disposable nappies( and I get ill when they get wet), then I also worry about mould in potting mix. Snake plants are the ones Nasa studied( you probably know). I have Cladosporium mould problem/sensitivity also. When it rains the downpipes seem to emit it; I’m on tank water, but there are leaves laying in the garden too. I am interested to hear about your mattress purchase. Love your Blogs. Thank you Michellina, and take care.

    • Michellina Van Loder says:

      Thank you, Lindy. Oh, I have to be back and forth to the mouldy house. But I’m not rushing it. So far, I’ve given myself at least a week or so in between visits and, if i don’t sleep there, I’m much better off. There is so much that can be said for fresh air. It’s amazing the difference it can make.

      My daughter has the dark circles after eating gluten. Mine are pain related; lack of oxygen makes sense though.
      Snake plants sound interesting. Didn’t know that about them but just googled to see what they are http://www.houzz.com/snake-plant and realise that I have a pot full. Though not in the house because I’m the same with the soil but only when mould effected or when blitzed by certain other chemical inhalants.

      I had never considered that the mould may come from the down pipes. Problem with that house is every time I open it up to air it, someone mows or hangs out fabric softener washed clothing. People have no idea. Until it happens to them. Mattress post coming up!

      Take care


  3. Deb Seely says:

    It is very interesting that you should mention “allergic shiners” today. I am familiar with them as my children and i have had food allergies for year now. I just noticed two days ago that the dark circles that I had been plagued with all my life, were back, and rather dark. I also got triggered the day before. I had not made the connection until you mentioned it in your blog. Hmmm, something to observe, and possibly use as a way to detect when and if I get triggered. Thank you!
    God bless you and yours

Information, products and views presented by guest bloggers @The Labyrinth are not necessarily the same as those held by this blog's author, Michellina van Loder. Reviews are my own personal opinions (unless stated otherwise); and satire is used throughout personal posts. Any health topics discussed are not to be taken as medical advice. Seek out medical attention if needed and do your own research; however, you're welcome to use mine as a start.
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