Monday, July 11, 2011

Letters From The Barn - Mugged By Mosquitoes

Letters From The Barn
Mugged By Mosquitoes

Before I did chores tonight, I was prepared. I wore long pants and a long sleeve shirt, even though it's summertime. I shielded my eyes and sprayed my hairline with bug repellant as mosquitoes and no-see-ums love to attack me there. I walked tall and proud out to the barn, ready for milking. I left, an hour later, defeated by the 27 bites on my face itself.

I can promise you, though, that I had not a single bite along my hair line. However, about an inch down, I had a line across my forehead as if I'd worn a rather low brimmed wool hat that my skin was irritated by. Looking closer, I had two triangles coming out from my ears of bites, almost like sideburns, or blush, drawn on a bit too ambitiously. I will only mention that my neck looked like a vampire had decided instead of actually breaking the skin that he would merely peck me to death. Or that he had found better pickings somewhere else and quit mid gusto.

I tried to spray the dog who would be out there with me, but she has been sprayed in the past and took off when she saw the bottle. She understood English remarkably well, though. As soon as I said, "You don't wanna any? Okay..." she ran right back, wagged her tail and headed off to the barn. Apparently she finds the idea of mosquitoes riding her piggy back to be exciting. I think she has a rather poor memory as we repeat this cycle most days.

I had originally gone to the feed store a week ago looking for a spray that was safe for the goats. Well, that's only somewhat true. I was thinking safe for me, too, as I drink a splash of their milk in my Sunday morning coffee. Some bugs go for animal's eyes. The goats are "lucky" in this case as the bugs only seem to go for the ears. It looks like a rather ambitious beaver jumped from the creek and waylaid them by one ear. But, I digress.

At the farm store, I read labels along with the nice woman who is one of the folks who actually listens to what a person asks before she says she doesn't know the answer. We read labels, the two of us, reading over and over that this bug repellant was okay for regular horses, but not those intended for slaughter for food. Now, not getting into the politics of however you feel about that, my self-preservationist thought simply was, "That's great, but does it go into the milk?" The feed store lady said no one had ever asked that before.

So, I decided to just go on and hose them down with the human stuff I was buying for myself anyway. It said it was okay for dogs. What's a goat but a dog with horns, hooves, a beard and an attitude? I was thinking it had to be safer, if it was intended for people.

But then it occurred to me I might have that wrong. Since the scientists assume that no one will be eating ME, perhaps the human kind, though listed as safe for kids, is even more toxic? Should I have bought bug repellant from an area known for the occasional cannibalistic hoe down? Perhaps ask if they can order Sadie's Super Safe Bug Spray: Proudly recommended by the Donner Party?

The goats were not all that thrilled that I thought of them, not really connecting my spraying them with poison, even while shielding their eyes, with less bites. But, let's face it. I'm not so good at connections either. After all, I'm the one who typed the article, that got the money, that bought the spray, that read the label, that covered their eyes to spray the spray and not even I can make that connection. Each time, I feel breathing in even the least toxic poison possible just can't be good. Still when I see my literally swollen face in the mirror, I realize I'm between a rock and a biting place.

There's an old adage that the same nature that provides a problem usually also provides at least a partial solution. While outside, I picked some plantain and laid it on my ankles that were rapidly swelling from bites despite the spray. It really did soothe them. I remembered when I used to live in an area with scarlet globemallow, I'd chew it to make a poultice for insect bites. So, for tomorrow I have my plan.

Since I've also heard that rubbing the same crushed up plantain leaves, which my land is full of, can ward off the mosquitoes, I'll be chewing those up tomorrow evening. I can imitate my great grandmother with her mouth full of chaw. Not sure I could walk around with anything tucked inside my lip like that all day, though. Maybe my little salad chopper thingie is better. Fair warning: If you happen to be out and about and see a lady walking around with pureed salad on her face, that just might be me.


Meriwether O'Connor is a columnist and short story writer. She works one on one with folks trying to get their writing where they would like it to be. Please contact her through this ungodly contraption called the internet if you'd like your own writing to be quicker and less painful. She'll sit down with you weekly over tea, the telephone or the godforsaken email and surprise you with how much a small chat can help you when you need it most.