Sunday, July 1, 2007

Hazards of Gardening

Yesterday I began to notice that I was itching at several mosquito bites on my side. I scratched (although I know I shouldn't, sometimes I indulge when I'm not paying attention anyway). I noticed by last night that I had been bit a lot, and wondered how this had happened, as I spend most of my time indoors, due to a fear of ticks (they've had an infestation here in the last couple of years, and so they're really bad here, to the point that if you go out on a walk through the woods, within five minutes you will have a tick on you. This has been proven, mainly on me.)

Of course, I did weed my garden on Friday morning, and I figured I must have had a secret attack of mosquitoes while I was weeding, because that was the last time I was outside, aside from walking from the house to the car. Not a big deal; I've had mosquito bites before, and if I actually don't itch/scratch, they will go away. By night, many bites had developed.

Then this morning I was scratching them again, and Avram saw me, and made me stop, and then I started again, and so he looked at them, and then told me, "These aren't mosquito bites. There are too many of them (to not have noticed being bit that many times) and also they don't look right." So Avram went and asked his Mom, and then she looked at them, and by this time we noticed that there were bites all up my sides and in my armpits (isn't that an ugly word? I almost didn't include it because it was so ugly) and back and some on my stomach. She agreed that these couldn't be mosquitoes, and so then chiggers were suggested, or perhaps poison ivy. They decided it was chiggers.

"What are Chiggers?" (I'm pretty ignorant) Well, it turns out they're these little creatures that are in water, that bite you and lay their eggs in you , and then if you don't take care of it the eggs will hatch on you. Of course, Humans never let it go that far, and you're supposed to put nail polish on all of the bites to cut off the oxygen to the babies so they'll die. By this time I was dying at the thought of myself being the laying ground for hundreds of baby Chiggers, and ready to just die right then and there. Although I hate cities, and especially I hate suburbs, sometimes I feel like I come from a different planet than nature.

I've lived in the country before; in Washington State for a year when I was ten, and I have no memory of all of these bugs. I roamed the wilds and ran into nary a tick or other creepy crawler grossy thingy. I did get stinging nettle, but not too badly. And I remember that we weren't supposed to go barefoot because of ticks, but that's about it. And since I was blissfully unaware of what ticks really are, it was all well.

Thankfully for my sanity, it came up that usually you only get chiggers when you go in the water, an then they're not all over your body, but rather along your sock line, or something. So maybe it wasn't chiggers after all. By this time Avram's dad had come into this, and had also looked at the bites on my side and back (I would have felt awkward about this, but by this time I just wanted someone else but me diagnosing and dealing with it). Between Avram and his parents, I was finally and ultimately diagnosed with poison ivy.

After contemplating chiggers, I was ecstatic at only have poison ivy, of only having harsh plant oils on my skin instead of living things. I love plants, they're great. And as a bonus, they're not going to turn my precious body into their birth host. EWWW! So comparatively I was grateful to have poison ivy. I think they should follow this approach with all diagnoses. For Example; "Mrs. Smith, you have the black death, where you will have black boils rise up all over your body, and then you'll stink and die. Did we mention all of your limbs will turn black and fall off first? (I'm making up the black death; so I don't know my history). After Mrs. Smith has awoken from her faint, then they'll say, "Just Kidding! You only have cancer that you'll most likely recover from, and only your hair will fall out, not all of your limbs!) Mrs. Smith will probably donate to the hospital she'll be so grateful.

Like a murder mystery, although we knew the diagnosis, we still had to figure out why I had poison ivy all over my torso, since I most definitively did not roll around in a poison ivy patch naked, as pleasant as that sounds. We finally deduced that the deer that came to the garden several days ago and ate pieces of most of the plants. This is a separate sadness; the deer ate all the leaves and blossoms of the two cantaloupe plants, and half of the cucumber and zucchini plants, and sampled from all of the tomato plants. Luckily the cantaloupe plants have in the days of their destitute poverty put forth new, tender leaves and so look to survive. If anyone has any advice on how to get rid of the deer, I would love some. Anyway, the deer must have brushed against poison ivy, then brushed against the tomato plants that I weeded extensively around on Friday, and then I took my infected hands, and immediately went and took a shower, where I washed myself all over with soap...and my hands. Thus my torso became covered with the transient poison ivy, which I appear to be very susceptible to, and thus the howdunit was solved.

After I applied the special poison ivy soap and then showered and applied anti itch stuff, I'm doing much, much better. And I've been very good about not scratching all day long. I never guessed that poison ivy was a hazard of gardening, but now I know.

PS (I still have no actual fruit out of this garden; there is one tomato turning red now, and all I know is that it had better taste good.)


  1. Oh dear! Chiggers are so nasty. I've never had poison ivy, though, so I can't compare the two. But I hate chiggers!
    I've never heard the thing about the water, though. Most summers I hardly touched water at all and still got plenty of chigger bites on a regular basis (dozens). Maybe the chiggers in Kansas are a different breed. Last summer I worked full time and would eat lunch on a picnic table in the parking lot. I swear I spent next to no time outside other than these lunch hours, but I got covered in chigger bites! My co-workers who ate there too also had them. Oh, I hated that picnic table.

    Anyway I'm glad the anti-itch stuff is making you feel better.

    That's one thing I like about Utah: you can lie on the grass without any fear!

  2. I don't believe in an International Jewish Conspiracy, but I do believe in an International Deer Conspiracy!

    One night I caught about 7 of them in my backyard in Provo when I was taking the trash out. When I came back from the trash they were all still there, but had turned and now were all facing our back door. I made it somehow in the house, but they then remained there staring at my door for a good fifteen minutes.

    Ever since then I run into deer everywhere. I think they have it out for me, for one or all of several reasons: a) I must have caught them in the act of one of their illegal activities; b) they must have known that I had a quarter of their kin in my freezer; c) they sensed my strange minor obsession with St. Hubert; or d) they know that my father killed the Great Stag of the forest.

    Deer eating plants and infecting your garden with poison ivy allergen is just more proof that this conspiracy does in fact exist! I have no hope to offer you, except that there are still a few of us working against them! But I'm not sure if even the cities are safe anymore . . .

  3. Oh, Thora! I'm so sorry to hear about your poison ivy! Somehow, I managed to survey in Utah, where poison ivy is common, for ten years without getting it! Maybe I'm immune.

    There indeed were ticks a-plenty at Tolstoy Farm. Every one of the Fallick girls had them more than once. That's why you were told never to go into the woods without a HAT. The barefoot part was to avoid other nasties.

    There's a countrified saying about deer: anything will work-- for a week!

    We left a radio on in the garden over night. Worked for a week.

    We poured lion pee from the zoo around the garden. Worked for a week.

    We put up a twelve-foot high, double fence around the garden. After a week, they jumped right over it.

    We penned the dog in the garden at night. A week later, we found him PLAYING with them!

    Our neighbor Tom put up an Australian electrified deer fence. (The American ones don't kill the deer, just shock them.) He found dead deer INSIDE the fence. They jumped in, ate up his vegetables, then were too heavy to jump out without touching the fence. Tom's a vegetarian, so he gave the carcase to us, which helped make up for losing our veggies. Things balance.

    IF you can invent a way to keep deer out of gardens that actually works for more than a week, your financial future is secure, and sainthood assured!

  4. After laughing through these comments, I've decided that maybe I've just been blessed to live through a pest free existence until now, and God's trying to make up for it now. My In laws were telling me that the reason there's a deer tick infestation is that there are too many deers around, so what we really need to do is kill more deer, and that will help. I'm not used to thinking of deer as a superfluous pest, but I'm beginning to do so now; and on the positive side effect, then I can eat it afterwards!

  5. Yes, Thora, I believe you can turn an ordinary English day into an adventure. I had some bite looking stuff appear on me--on my torso--first right side and then left side only in the front. A couple appeared on my upper arms. They itched. They had white heads like pimples kind of. At the same time I developed an eye infection which immediately got worse when I took put the doctor recommended eye drops in--apparently an allergy. Then everything went away and I never learned what caused any of it.

  6. Ogg.. Poision ivy!

    I was always smugly contemptious of poision ivy, thought I was immune.

    And indeed it seemed I was, or, nearly was anyway - I had never suffered more then a very mild rash that passed within a day or two - even after rubbing those three-leafed clusters directly against the skin. I was full of smugness and contempt for said botanical.

    This all changed after a week on Arizona's Black River. I'm not sure if it was just a particularly virolent strain of plant unique to the area, or if it was just vengance for all those years of smugness, but with all the dirt-shod running from camp to river for swimming I trod upon a fair amount of ivy and there-by discovered that the soles of my feet were not (double-plus not) immune to the oil.

    That was a sucky summer.

  7. oh thora... reading your posts is like reading a chapter in anne of green gables! arent you happy?? lol. I am sorry you have poison Ivy, and chiggers sounds so horribly gross. I am glad that was not it. I never knew what they were, just read about them in books so thank you for the explaination. Also sorry that you have a deer who enjoys sampling your garden, it must be a good one then right? and I hope that tomatoe does not disapoint.

    So now you have me paranoid.. are there chiggers in utah??

  8. oh and I must add that even though I ran around hatless in the woods the whole time we lived in washington I never had one tick. Maybe its becuase I have so little hair to nestle into?? Maybe My blood doesnt smell good? who knows but i remember beign so grossed out when the little girls and the dog had them.

  9. Chiggers are not common in Utah, nor in Washington. They seem to like the southeastern US better.

    There are different cultivars of poison ivy, like nearly all plant species; also, there are other "poison" plants that do not look at all like ivy, such as poison oak and sumac. Their poison is very different from the agent in poison ivy. Best not to take chances.

    Deer ticks are attracted by carbon dioxide-- they use dry ice to catch them. So if you don't want to attract ticks, all you have to do is stop breathing!

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