Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘poison ivy

Holding Out

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Turns out, our adult Golden Laced Wyandotte layer hen has been holding out on us. Yesterday, Cyndie’s mom, Marie, along with Sara and Althea, stopped by to see the new chicks on their way home from the lake place. While they were here, the group took a stroll to find the three adult hens free-ranging away on the property.

When they heard the Wyandotte cooing in a thicket of growth, closer inspection revealed she was sitting on a batch of seven eggs!

Why that little stinker.

When I got home and Cyndie shared some pictures of the scene with me, the thing that stood out more than the eggs was the appearance of poison ivy leaves around the spot.

That chicken really doesn’t seem to want us to take her eggs.

For that matter, I suddenly have very little interest in handling that hen! Her feathers are probably covered in poison ivy oils. I start to feel phantom itches all over just thinking about it, and I didn’t even touch any of the hens or eggs yesterday.

I touched a lot of cute little “henlets,” though.

Whose idea was it to allow our chickens to free-range around here, anyway? A fenced run off the coop would be a lot simpler than all the risks due to predators and the hens’ creativity with laying locations.

Speaking of predators, I believe there is now one less fox we need to worry about. Yesterday morning, just as I turned off our street on the way to work at the crack of dawn, I saw a roadkill fox in the oncoming lane.

I’m a little surprised no other marauders discovered the pile of eggs free for the taking from the ground in the last week. Maybe that bodes well for the chances of continued good luck for the last three surviving hens from our 2018 batch.

If it weren’t for the occasional random incursions of passing bands of coyotes, our regular number of free-ranging adults might increase from the usual three that we always end up with toward the end of their productive egg-laying years.

When we were in this same situation two years ago, with 3 adults and a new brood of twelve young-uns that we expected would need merging together, the adults all got taken by a fox over a series of a few days. Sad as that was, it saved us the hassle of introducing the different aged birds to each other.

This time, I may need to actually follow through on a plan to remodel the inside of the coop to add a barrier that will provide shared-but-segregated accommodations for some period of introduction.

We never run out of new things to learn around here. Particularly, how to outsmart a hen that decides she’s too good for the silly nest boxes in the coop for laying her precious eggs.

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Another One

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We have been very lucky recently that the most violent of the stormy weather passing through our region has been missing us. Instead of 4 or 5 inches of rain, we have had 1.75 inches. Despite the wild panic Delilah has demonstrated over rumbles of thunder that occurred, no lightning strikes have hit nearby. Most worrisome for me over the weekend were reports of 70 and 80 mph wind gusts combined with golfball to baseball-sized hailstones crashing down.

That never materialized here. Still, for some strange reason, we continue to experience falling trees. On Saturday, I posted about the tree that fell on Friday, even though I wasn’t aware we had experienced any storm. By the end of that same day, there was another even bigger busted tree hanging across that same trail.

We didn’t hear that one, either.

It’s becoming an obstacle course to navigate that trail through the woods. Cyndie was away all weekend, so I respected our agreement to avoid using the chain saw when I’m alone and left the three downed trees across the path for the time being.

It’s probably only marginally safer to use the wood chipper, but I elected to work with that yesterday morning while I waited for the overnight dew to evaporate from the really long lawn grass. Mowing the lawn became the afternoon project.

The professional crew we hired to bring down that big oak that toppled, cut it up and left everything lay right where it was, which saved us a lot of money. Now I’m having second thoughts about those savings. Wrestling the branches to get them into and down the chute of the chipper is a real chore if the “Y” junctions aren’t trimmed.

It is a “pay me now or pay me later” process. I don’t want to spend time cutting every last branch, so I spend the time instead, trying to force the branches far enough down the chute to where the chipper will grab and break them.

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Most of the cut logs are so big I can’t lift them. They will get rolled downhill to where I can get them in the ATV trailer to be moved up by the woodshed for splitting.

The chickens seem to like scratching through the pile of wood chips. I have no idea what they were finding in there.

I will be very surprised if I don’t end up with a poison ivy reaction after that exercise. Right where I stood to feed the chipper, there was a known patch of poison ivy. I expect it was getting on the branches I was grabbing, it was probably getting atomized by the chipper, I was likely breathing it, and wiping sweat off my face with gloves that handled it.

I washed down thoroughly afterward, but time will tell whether I was being stupidly careless, or that my previous recent exposures with sequentially reduced reactions were an indication that my sensitivity is fading. I should know in a day or two.

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Written by johnwhays

July 22, 2019 at 6:00 am

Feeling Summer

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I like the simple designation of meteorological seasons by month, over the astrological solstice and equinox markers. My brain senses the longest day should mark the middle of summer and the shortest day, the middle of winter. By meteorological reference, summer happens in June, July, and August.

It sure felt like summer on the second day of June this year. Last night, as we tried to cool the house by opening windows to the evening air, the enticing sounds of heavy, distant rumbling thunder rolled slowly closer and closer. Eventually, we enjoyed an almost gentle thunderstorm that this morning has left barely a trace of its visit.

Except for the amazing response of growing things. Our landscape is under siege.

Just beyond our deck, the previous prominent low spruce is getting swallowed by ferns from behind and volunteer cedar trees from the front. The clematis on our trellis is being crowded out by a volunteer maple that decided to make itself at home there.

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I don’t understand why the scotch pine to the left of the trellis is so anemic. Everything around it is growing fast and furious. It is possibly being hindered by the same affliction taking down so many of our long needle pines.

The ornamental reeds in our little garden pond are spreading themselves well beyond the edges, giving the impression they will soon fill the space if left unhampered.

Meanwhile, the climbing vines are voraciously trying to blanket all of our trees, the unwanted grasses taking over our pastures, and poison ivy is thriving like you wouldn’t believe.

What’s a gardener to do? I tend to prefer a hands-off approach to the nature-scape, but we are finding the land inundated with invasives and trouble-makers that require decisive action. Desirables like maple trees are sprouting in places where they don’t belong, and though prized, will become problems if neglected.

I must overcome my reluctance and sharpen my skills of seek and destroy, or at least aggressively prune, prune, prune.

In the same way we wish broccoli tasted like chocolate, Cyndie and I are wishing the desired plants would simply crowd out weeds to the point all we needed to do would be a little cutting of the grass and lounging in the garden.

All you folks wanting to suggest we get some goats… it is increasingly weighing on my mind. Maybe I will try renting some for a trial run.

There just aren’t enough hours in a day for us to manage the explosion of growth summer brings.

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Written by johnwhays

June 3, 2017 at 9:02 am

Mixed Results

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IMG_iP1415eThere has been enough progress from my last application of organic weed killer to see where it works, and where it doesn’t. I’m getting mixed results. Close inspection of the image will reveal some remaining leaves of poison ivy that are very green and healthy. Either they are new sprouts since I sprayed, or I missed them completely.

It is possible that I missed some leaves, because there are so many other growing plants in the vicinity, it is hard to see. I wasn’t about to reach down and move things out of the way to get a better view. When I spray poison ivy, I do so at an arm’s length.

When the weed killer hits the mark, it works very well. I will just make a point of returning at the next opportunity to apply another dose. It gets easier each time to spot the leftover plants remaining. I learned last year that more than one application would be required, after new growth sprouted in place of the first batch I had killed.

I never got the chance to do that follow-up application, and instead focused on readying ourselves to make a fresh attack this summer with the new sprayer and a new gallon of concentrated citrus-based weed killer.

On another subject, speaking of mixed results, I mentioned to Cyndie that I was considering creating a custom sweet and salty trail mix to take on the bike trip this year. She had me make a shopping list of ingredients so she could pick some things up on a grocery run yesterday.

DSCN4817eWhat a bounty of choices I found on the kitchen counter when I got home from work! I concocted a bizarre combination of items, measuring each to calculate a rough sugar-grams-per-serving value so I would know what I’m getting when I dive in ravenously after a day’s ride.

When we arrive at the evening destinations, the first thing to be dealt with is finding the best spot for our tents. In that weary moment when helmets get dropped, bike shoes come off, and our baggage has been claimed, I find it an incredible pleasure when one precious friend or another shows up with something to munch on.

A primitive part of my brain is usually begging for sustenance to replenish the deficit it perceives after the day of pedaling. I don’t know why the body can’t just use up some of my extra middle inches for fuel at that point, but it never seems to work out that way for me.

It’s too easy to gobble up some new deliciousness before the body ever gets around to trimming the belly. I definitely gain fitness over the week of biking, but with all the eating we do along the way, the results are usually mixed.

An oft-used byline for the collection of folks who form the core community of this ride is… we are an eating group with a biking disorder. 

I resemble that remark.

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Written by johnwhays

June 15, 2016 at 6:00 am

Limited Success

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We have been experiencing a significant instability in our internet connection of late. I have a suspicion that it could have something to do with all the leaves now on the trees again. It is particularly frustrating for my daily posting habit. I can’t force an upload to proceed if it doesn’t want to.

There might be a solution out there somewhere. Maybe we should invest in a signal booster.

Meanwhile, I’m inclined to not fight it and let my posts be short and simple. Wanna see what I did yesterday?

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I did some poison ivy management with the aid of our new backpack sprayer. From the looks of the banner crop this year, we’re gonna need a bigger backpack. The more infestations I treat, the more other infestations I keep finding.

Or maybe this is just a function of my finally getting around to learning how to recognize it. Now I tend to find it everywhere I turn!

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Written by johnwhays

June 6, 2016 at 6:00 am

Full Disclosure

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DSCN3599eI came home to some good news yesterday, and some bad news. Both involve growing things. The good news is that our berries look to be coming in with gusto this year. The bad news is that the poison ivy I sprayed has come back to life already. Full disclosure on that organic weed killer that I was so excited about: It will take more than one application to kill poison ivy all the way down to the roots.

I haven’t looked closely enough yet to know for sure, but at first glance, it looked to me that at least 80% of what I had first sprayed as my test case has sprouted new leaves from the same stem. I don’t think that’s a big deal. Now that I know, I will be more studious about returning to stifle any new growth with another spraying as soon as it appears.

I have received a fresh batch of concentrated weed killer and will be mixing batches of it for use in my new backpack sprayer to apply on the next warm, sunny day that I am home. This is a fight that the poison ivy will not win.

DSCN3603eThere are other good things blooming at our place right now. I wish I could offer up the amazing aroma emanating from our Japanese tree lilac for you to enjoy. That tree puts out one heck of a powerful perfume.

There are other bad things happening here, too. That cute little stunted spruce tree in the foreground of that image is a favorite location for several nesting birds. Last night as I was holding the front door open for Cyndie to step in with her arms full, I spotted Delilah up on her hind legs under that short tree.

Our sudden shouting at her to get down did nothing to dissuade her from plucking a poor innocent bird out of its hiding spot. One of my first thoughts was that this was a precursor to the challenges we will face if/when we get around to having chickens.

That dog is just a natural-born predator. It may be overly callous, but since the damage is done, I guess I can look at it as one less bird trying to get our berries before we do.

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Written by johnwhays

June 25, 2015 at 6:00 am

Ivy Update

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DSCN3532eI am happy to report that the organic weed killer I have discovered works very efficiently at choking the poison ivy growing on our property. I tested it in a location where there weren’t very many other plants growing, which made it easier to target just the ivy leaves with the spray.

I am using Avenger Weed Killer which is approved for use in organic gardening. It is easy to spot leaves of plants that I missed with that first application, as well as some partial damage where only drops made contact.

The active ingredient is a citrus oil, which provides the added benefit of actually having a pleasant smell. I get a little aroma therapy while also experiencing an almost uncomfortable amount of pleasure over taking the lives of all these plants.

Some suppressed evil alter-ego in me comes out and I become the villainous deliverer of death.

“Die, DIE, you poisonous scum!”

For some reason, holding the bottle of weed killer seems to make it easier for me to spot those dastardly poison ivy leaves. For so long I was in the dark about which “leaves of three” was the culprit, but after finally making an initial positive identification, it’s getting easier. Then, once I start spraying, those leaves seem to be everywhere!

Yesterday, I used up what remained of our sample gallon, which I had purchased to test its effectiveness. As I sprayed, my eyes kept finding more and more of those poisonous leaves. I have now ordered a gallon of the concentrate and plan to purchase a backpack sprayer, because there remains a lot more ground to cover.

Even if I can’t totally eliminate the poison ivy from our land, it is comforting to know we have the ability to stop it from running rampant. I’ll focus on high-traffic areas and anywhere it has gotten thick like it was in this spot next to one of our open trails. The white outlines on the leaves are the weed killer, shortly after I had sprayed.

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Written by johnwhays

June 9, 2015 at 6:00 am

Risky Behavior

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I engaged in some risky behavior yesterday, and it was thoroughly pleasing. Regardless the likelihood of exposing myself to the dreaded oil of the poison ivy plant, I did some heavy trimming with our Stihl brush cutter. There is something incredibly satisfying about accomplishing the clean and trimmed look that this tool enables. All those edges that I can’t reach when mowing with our lawn tractor are so quickly dispatched.

Ian will know just what I’m talking about. It was when Cyndie and I were visiting him in Portugal that I discovered what can be accomplished with a brush cutter. There is immediate visual reward for the work and it creates a wonderfully clean landscape.

I needed to get after several areas, but I was primarily needing to clear our fence lines. When things grow tall enough to make contact with our electric fence, they start to put a load on it and that brings the voltage down. I didn’t have enough time to finish the whole chore, but at least I took care of the most visible portions first, so our place looks freshly maintained.

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Still plenty left to do

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Looks great when it’s done!

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There were only a few times when I thought I spotted what could possibly have been poison ivy, but I was shredding away and chose not to stop and try to confirm. Forging ahead, I just made a point to be very careful about what I touched while I worked. When I stopped and came in for lunch, I brushed off as best possible with my gloves, and then washed my arms and hands thoroughly with cold water.

I’ll know in a day or two if I was exposed.

After lunch, at the high point of sunshine for the day, I got up close and personal with one of our very visible known patches of poison ivy, and sprayed it with a new organic weed killer that I had ordered online. Just like the description I received from someone who recommended this brand, the leaves began to wilt within hours. So far, it appears to be working dramatically well.

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I felt a bit embarrassed over how much pleasure I was getting out of seeing that the weed killer was working so well and the plants were suffering, but the risk of being embarrassed is something I am more than willing to accept.

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Written by johnwhays

June 2, 2015 at 6:00 am

Positive Identification

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At the risk of belaboring this subject of my ongoing struggles with poison ivy —a topic which I would really prefer people not automatically associate me with [so why am I writing about it?]— I made some progress yesterday on learning to better identify it on our property.

I have been writing about it in my online community, Brainstorms, and one of the responses I received there bolstered my confidence that I would figure out how to positively recognize it. Armed with a fresh review of images available online for reference, I enlisted Cyndie to join me as a second set of eyes and opinions and we set out on a reconnaissance mission along our northern property line where I suspect my most recent exposure occurred.

IMG_iP0792eAfter several cases of “See, this has the features, and also these, but not quite,” BOOM! We came upon an unsettling amount of easily recognizable 3-leaflet clusters where the back two leaves have a single notch that gives them a mitten-like appearance. The leaves were a little shinier than other plants, and the newest sprouts had a red coloring. It suddenly seemed very obvious to me.

It was a weird feeling to still have a significant rash in the process of healing, and be finally staring from a short distance away, directly at the plant that causes it. I had to resist the urge to just reach down and pull it out by the roots. All I could do was stare. I didn’t even want my boot to touch it. Heck, I didn’t even want to breathe if the wind blew past.

IMG_iP0792e1The longer we walked, the more plants I located. I think I liked it better when I remained oblivious.

My discussion on Brainstorms brought up the point that if I don’t take any action against the plants, they will just spread. That got my attention. I’ve been operating as though my efforts to ignore it might somehow make it go away.

See why I don’t want to be remembered for this?

Anyway, since I prefer to avoid the extreme option of attacking it with a harsh chemical herbicide like Roundup, I looked up natural ways to kill the poison ivy plant.

Number one option: goats.

Hmmm. But how do I get them to eat around the desirable plants? Actually, although Cyndie said she thought poison ivy was on a list of things a horse shouldn’t eat, I found information that horses can graze on it. That would be nice. I don’t think I will walk them around encouraging them to eat the plants growing along our trails, but I think some is growing out in the fields we have designated as pasture for them, and I’d rather not have to worry about it being there.

There are also options of potions containing white vinegar, mixtures of salt and soap, and even one that uses gin and apple cider vinegar that can be sprayed on the leaves. That doesn’t seem too harsh, although I don’t know that it won’t also kill other growing things in the same vicinity. I’d prefer that it not end up looking like we just poured Roundup on it.

Regardless what method we employ, it requires that I be able to identify the culprit, and I am now finally feeling confident I can pick it out among the myriad other innocuous and desirable flora carpeting our glorious acres. It’s been a rude awakening.

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Written by johnwhays

May 18, 2015 at 6:00 am

Poisoned Again

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I’ve gone and done it again. I got a new poison ivy rash on my arms just as a previous outbreak was reaching the end of its healing process. You’d think I would know better, but my vigilance tends to be inexplicably cursory. Why is that? I have no idea. I wear a seatbelt when in a car and a helmet when I ride my bike. Why would I behave so cavalierly when it comes to this poison that grows all over our property and to which I am so sensitive?

For one thing, every time I research what the plant looks like, I get so many variations of leaves of 3, all looking frustratingly common and innocuous, that I gain little to no confidence that I could know it when I see it. I suppose I could try behaving as if every growing thing around here were hazardous.

Actually, I probably just give up too easily. After looking at pictures for a couple of hours last night, I believe I may now be able to recognize enough key features that I can identify it when I see it. Seeing it becomes the challenge. Honestly, there are so many things growing all over the place here that it tends to boggle my mind.

Speaking of my boggled mind, I have no idea how I have been able to avoid getting a rash after the number of times using the power trimmer when I have been sprayed head to toe with wet green shrapnel of the growing things being mowed to the ground. It makes no sense that I have somehow been lucky enough to not have trimmed places where poison ivy was present. It is pure hubris that I have forged ahead carelessly with this and gotten away with it.

Last Saturday, in a rush to try to finish clearing brush from the last section of our northern property line, I scrambled to cut and clear a wide variety of unidentified growth, both on the ground and as small vines and trees. With arms bare and wearing a t-shirt, I dragged through the undergrowth to cut and pull anything that stuck up. I grabbed piles of brush and branches in my arms and hauled them a short walk away to toss on a pile. It was hot, I was sweaty, and I worked hastily in a rush to finish before showering for a visit to the Walker’s bonfire gathering.

A day and a half later, I knew the rash on my arms was going to be bad. It was so head-slapping-D’oh obvious, it was embarrassing. Of course I put myself at risk with that thoughtless behavior. And I was just getting over a rash, probably from the same dang project when I started it a couple weeks before.

I’ve been treating the rash with my favorite method of super hot water, as hot as I can stand, on areas of rash to release histamine from the cells. It feels great at the time, and then calms itching for hours. In the past, doctors have treated me with the steroid, prednisone, which works really well, but I hate the side effects I experience. To avoid that, I have been taking an antihistamine, per one doctor’s suggestion, which seems to dry up the worst areas which would otherwise be oozing. Other than that, it’s simply a matter of enduring the 1-2 weeks it takes my skin to heal.

Ultimately, avoidance is the best way to deal with being sensitive to poison plants, so I intend to up my game of knowing what my nemesis looks like, and take prudent precautions when it is likely that my activity will put me at risk.

Obviously, simply trying to avoid hugging Delilah has not been a sufficient plan for keeping my skin from being poisoned again.

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Written by johnwhays

May 14, 2015 at 6:00 am

Posted in Chronicle

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