Picking Blackberries

Picking blackberries with Charlie.

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    Ticks: Natural Prevention and Remedies

    By Barbara Pleasant

    Article Origin Mother Earth

    If you live near or often spend time in a wooded area, blood-sucking ticks are part of your world. When tick populations rise in July and August, you’ll again feel those familiar tickling sensations on your legs and neck, and again drag the dog into the sunlight so you can spot and remove those darn ticks. During this process, you may be wondering whether there are better ways to survive tick season, especially if you don’t want to use DEET (a chemical insecticide that may cause eye irritation, rash or other side effects) on yourself or veterinarian-grade pesticides on your pets. Even if you do use chemicals in your tick management plan, it’s still a good idea to back them up with sound natural strategies.

    The stakes can be high. First described in 1977 as “Lyme arthritis,” tick-vectored (transmitted) Lyme disease is now the most common critter-vectored disease in North America. More than 30,000 cases were reported in 2008, including many in towns and cities where no previous infections had been recorded. Like an invasive weed, Lyme disease is slowly spreading inland from its stronghold along the northern Atlantic coast. (Click to read more about Lyme disease.)

    Caused by the bacterium Borrelia brugdorferi, Lyme disease is carried by deer ticks (also known as black-legged ticks). White-footed mice frequently serve as reservoirs for the bacteria, as do deer and many other mammals. Ticks are most likely to transmit Lyme disease to humans when they are tiny nymphs (juvenile ticks), only slightly bigger than the period at the end of this sentence. Other tick species transmit diseases as well, including Rocky Mountain spotted fever. So no matter where you live, preventing ticks from finding you and your pets is always a good idea. To help you stay ahead of these pests, here are the top 10 natural ways to make tick season easier to take.

    1. Dress Defensively. When you venture into areas where ticks might be waiting, dress for the occasion. Wear a hat and light-colored clothing (to help you see ticks before they find skin), and tuck your shirt into your pants and your pants into your socks. You may look goofy, but it’s better than becoming a tick’s dinner.

    2. Get Sticky. Keep a sticky tape-type lint roller handy if you’re finding ticks regularly. This little gizmo will pick up unattached ticks from clothing or pets, which bring hitchhiking ticks into the house. Use any type of sticky tape to cleanly capture ticks crawling in your home.

    3. Clean Up Your Act. When you come indoors after outside activities, give your clothes a 10-minute spin in a hot clothes dryer to kill any ticks that might be hiding in the folds or seams. Then take a hot, soapy bath or shower. Unattached ticks will be flushed away, but you will still need to do a tick check of your body.

    4. Do Tick Checks. Ticks must feed for 36 to 48 hours in order to transmit Lyme disease, so regularly checking yourself for ticks after you’ve been in wooded areas is a hugely effective preventive measure. Look for tiny and foreign dark dots, especially in moist body creases in the armpits, groin, hairline, scalp, waistband and the backs of your knees. Let someone else check you, if possible, because it’s difficult to check your own scalp and backside. Because of their tiny size, it is entirely possible to carry a nymph on your body long enough for it to feed and then drop off without you ever knowing you were bitten, so be sure to check often and carefully. Check yourself before bed, too.

    5. Upgrade Your Tick Removal Equipment. If you’re using tweezers or a pair of forceps to remove an attached tick from yourself or your pets, you’re doing it the hard way. Instead, try using small tick removal “spoons” such as the Tick Twister for little deer ticks, Ticked Off for any size ticks, or a Tick Key tick remover for larger dog ticks. All of these devices cost less than $5 and they are worth every penny. Look for them at pet stores or from online merchants.

    6. Put Poultry to Work. Ticks have few natural predators, but many MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers report that their flocks of poultry have made big impacts on tick populations. In a study from South Africa, chickens were found to eat an average of 10 ticks per hour. (Click to read more about poultry pest control. — MOTHER)

    7. Welcome Wildlife. Your homestead is less likely to become a Lyme disease hot spot if it includes numerous species of mammals, birds and reptiles for ticks to feed on instead of white-footed mice. Newly hatched tick larvae are disease-free, and if they feed on animals that are poor reservoirs of Lyme disease — most squirrels, for example — fewer nymphs will be infected.

    8. Maintain Mowed Buffer Zones. Ticks sometimes do wander onto the edges of lawns, but they are most likely to find you as you walk through tall grass, work around low shrubbery, or hang out in shady, mulched areas. Open lawn makes poor tick habitat, so a swath of lawn makes a good buffer zone between your house and the wilder habitats preferred by ticks.

    9. Perfume Your Pants. If you must venture into tick territory often, pump up the deterrent properties of your pants. Commercially made plant-based pesticides that deter ticks are made with lemon eucalyptus oil (available in Repel products as well as Cutter Lemon Eucalyptus Spray). It’s fragrant stuff, so you may prefer heavily treating your pants and socks better than slathering it on your skin.

    If tick levels are high and you need to be in their habitat a lot, you may want to try the pesticide permethrin on your clothes. David Duffy, professor of botany at the University of Hawaii, led a study of the effectiveness of guinea fowl in reducing tick populations in New York. Duffy says he and the other researchers involved in his study protected themselves by spraying their clothing (long trousers tucked into socks) with permethrinbased products.

    “It locks on to fabric, so it doesn’t come off in the wash,” he says. “We lined our trousers up on the porch, sprayed them and let them dry. They were good for five or six washes each, or two weeks at least.”

    10. Track Any Attacks. If you do find an attached tick, remove it carefully with tweezers, forceps or a tick removal tool, wipe the bite with an antiseptic, and circle it with a permanent marker. Check the bite location every few days for a rash or other unusual inflammation, and promptly seek medical attention if you see or experience any symptoms of Lyme disease (see “Could It Be Lyme Disease?” below). The disease is curable if treated in its early stages, but if you wait too long, you could be in for a long and difficult recovery.

    Could It Be Lyme Disease?

    In addition to a “bull’s-eye” rash and soreness near the tick bite itself, other early signs of Lyme disease infection resemble the flu and can include chills, fever, joint pain and fatigue accompanied by swollen lymph nodes near the bite. If you have flulike symptoms and an inflamed bite — even if you never saw a tick — you should see a doctor right away. Several antibiotics are highly effective when taken during the first few weeks after the bacteria enter your body. If Lyme disease is not treated promptly, the bacteria will move into your muscles, nerves, joints and brain. Latestage Lyme disease is debilitating, causing severe arthritis, mental confusion, numbness of the arms and legs, and heart problems.

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      Winter has come!

      It was inevitable. The first “real” snowfall has started. We currently are expecting 4-8″ of the fluffly stuff. However, all you do is turn around and that changes.  We are very excited about this. Except maybe the kids. They are homeschooled, so no real snow day for them. We are looking forward to snow angels, snowball fights and hot chocolate this afternoon though. Who wouldn’t be?  We have our Dutch Oven ready, our closet full of camping gear and we are ready for what ever comes our way. Hooray for having 3 Boy Scouts in the family!!

      It always amazes me though how people prepare for upcoming weather. My husband and I were watching the news last night and they were interviewing shoppers.  I laughed at the kinds of things they had in their carts. Applesauce cups, frozen waffles, etc. Not exactly essentials. What happened to cases of canned goods, dried goods and peanut butter?  If the power goes out, are we to just keep our food out in the snow and then tredge in and out all day to gather the  meals? While, of course,  letting out all the precious heat it took us all day to conserve.  I may not be an expert at weather prepardness, but can’t we rethink our misguided notions of what is actually needed if the time comes and buy smart? Or be stoked about the full pantry of food we can’t cook? Hey, I stocked up!

        Posted in Dutch Oven Recipes, Homeschool, Kids, Miscellaneous, Rants, Scouting by with no comments yet.

        Holiday Traditions- Thanksgiving

        Thanksgiving is very big in a lot of households in this country.   However, I’ve noticed more this year that our family doesn’t put as much into it as I think we should.  I mean, we have a few things we do. For one, I like to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving day parade while reading the ads for the Black Friday sales in my pajamas.  Of course, my Mother-in-Law and I go out to do a little shopping and then have lunch together the day after Thanksgiving.  It’s a girl thing.

        I especially like making dinner in the Dutch Ovens outside.  We have had the juiciest turkey since doing it this way. This was our second time.  I couldn’t go back to the oven or roaster method.  This year we decided to cook our stuffing in a Dutch Oven as well. It was awesome!  Next year I look forward to adding more culinary creations to our rustic way of cooking.

        We really don’t miss the stress of having a large gathering anymore. I used to want that when I was in my twenties and starting my own family traditions. I grew up spending the holidays with Aunts, Uncles, Cousins and Grandparents.  However, my family hasn’t all been together for Thanksgiving since 1998 when my second son was a few months old.   I see very few of them throughout the year and everyone seems to like it that way.  Or at least no ones complaining.

        Now, I rather make it extra special for those who matter most. Those in the family who genuinely get together with you all through the year and not just because it’s a holiday.

        Do you have any suggestions of some fun family taditions we could try for next year?

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          Holiday Traditions- Halloween

          Our family is big on traditions.  It starts in October with Halloween.  Better yet, the preparation for Halloween. We always go to a pumpkin patch.  When my husband and I were dating we visited a pumpkin patch and have been going there every year since.  Shaake’s Pumpkin Patch is the best.  It is a real working farm that began as a 4H project and developed from there.  They offer a hayrack ride to and from the patches.  Animals to check out. Play areas for the kids, like a couple of playsets, on where you slide into a bunch of hay. A haybale maze and now a pumpkin launch using big slingshots.  Of course, lots of photo opportunities.  Not to mention all the crafts and food items.

          We’ve done the same thing every year.  We start out wandering the grounds checking out the animals. They usually always have a young cow to get up and close with. We take our pics of how tall the kids are this year up against the giant measuring board.  The kids play some and go throught he maze.  We did the pumpkin launch again this year, in which dad got in on it this time.  Very close to a free slushy!  We eventually make it to the hayrack and head out to find the perfect pumpkin.  It is hard to find the very best one among the sea of perfect orange.  However, we manage to each choose the best.  Getting them back to start is sometimes fun too.  This year a 12 or 13 year old lost her flip flop off the side of the hayrack and jumped off.  Had a good laugh about that one. She did too.  After weighing, paying and loading the loot we head to our final stop on the farm.  We get cider, slushes and cookies at their concession stand.

          We can’t think of a better way to start our fall.

          What about you?

            Posted in Halloween, Holidays, Kids, Miscellaneous by with no comments yet.