Tickmageddon!

I spent much of my youth running around like a little idiot. You could often find me running through a field of tall grass, climbing trees, or recklessly wandering through the woods. Being one who could not stand the feel of lotions and sprays, my only protection from the sun and various bugs looking to use me as a buffet were my hands and clothes. Despite all my years playing in the exact areas ticks love to call home, I never once saw or even got a tick on me. All of that changed for me this year.

In this year alone, my wife and I have pulled so many ticks off of me and our children that we can scarcely believe it. Despite living away from the center of town, I do my part to keep my yard tidy to keep the little bastards at bay, and yet they still come. Just today my daughter was outside for not terribly long while I was doing yard maintenance and somehow managed to get a tick on her leg under her tights. After doing a thorough tick check on her, I had my wife do one on me. Thankfully, I was in the clear. Earlier in the year there was one embedded behind my ear, so we’ve been cautious to do regular tick checks. Considering that I haven’t had a haircut in over two years, tick checks aren’t the easiest for my wife to perform on me. After taking my shower, I decided to check over my jeans before putting them back on. I’m glad I did as I found a tick on the inside of one of the pant legs. Suffice to say, the tick met a watery demise as it was whisked away to my septic tank. The jeans went straight into the washing machine.

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Believe it or not, when we moved in, you couldn’t even see this stone wall. To someone who didn’t know better, you’d never know it was there.

If you take a look at the photograph above, you’ll see my recently uncovered stone property line. That wall is a veritable tick breeding ground. I’ve gotten more ticks on that wall than I have anywhere else on the property. That’s why I’ve been doing my damnedest to clean it up. That picture was taken today and if you think it looks like a mess, you should’ve seen it before. In the next picture down below, you’ll see a huge pile of brush. Most of that brush was what I had cut away and cleared from the wall. It was so thick there, you couldn’t even see the wall when we moved in almost two years ago. Since then, the vegetation around that wall has been met with branch cutters, a chainsaw, a machete, and good old-fashioned pulling. I have tried to mow and weed whack as best I can along that wall every week. I’ve been making progress, but the basic stuff comes back quickly. I would love to just coat that entire area with industrial plant killers, but my wife is against the idea.

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The area that you see before you looks absolutely nothing like it did when we moved in.

In this next picture in left corner between the wall and the trees, you can see branches and plant growth. Though it’s difficult to tell, that pile of branches and brush goes up above my head in places and much further back, just to give you an idea of how much I have cleared from the wall. If you go back to that first picture, you’ll see I’ve got a lot to go. Well, that’s not really that much compared to how much I’ve already removed. However, before I can get the wall fully cleaned up, I need to take some time to talk to my new neighbors about cleaning up their half of the wall. Cleaning up my side will only do so much if the other side is still a breeding ground.

Anyhow, back to the second picture. If you look between the left tree and the brush pile, you’ll see an empty space. Until very recently, that space was occupied by ancient and rusty farm equipment. It was also full of waist high plants, large dead sticks, and rocks which made it very difficult to clean up. Once the farm equipment was gone, it was much easier to go in there and clear the area out.

The space between the trees had a very large shed in it and was extremely wet. Throw in there very large rocks, boards with nails, and very high plants, and it wasn’t even worth the effort to clean it up until the shed was gone. Thankfully, that went the same day as the farm equipment. Within hours of that shed moving, the wetness began drying up very quickly. This allowed me to go through and cut down the high plants as well as remove the large rocks and boards with nails.

The are around the right tree was full of tall plants. Once I actually got in there, I discovered that most of those plants were not actually grass and the such, but lots of little trees that had sprung up over the years. So many skinny trees, most of them half an inch to an inch thick. We used (and I don’t know what you would call it) what I can only describe as a weed whacker with a saw blade. It took quite a while, but it got the job done, though I lost much of the feeling in my arms that day from the sheer vibrations of it. Then I used the branch cutters to remove the stumps. It wasn’t fun work, but I’m proud of what I did. The yard looks so much nicer now and I’m not nearly as worried about ticks in the part of the yard as I once was.

In the back, you can see what appears to be more bushes. These are more of those thin trees that have cropped up over the years that need to be cut down and removed, just as were around the right most tree in the picture. In time, I will remove these too, however, they are not priority right now and will have to wait for a future date. I am considering having a go at these during the winter when there aren’t any leaves to obscure what I am doing. Winter will also allow me to cut the wood into better piles. Without all the summer growth, I should be able to take care of a lot. Hey, maybe I should consider doing some heavy work on that wall during the winter as well.

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Please excuse the unfinished mowing job. I’m waiting on a new mower blade.

In this third picture, you can see a portion of the back yard. It’s difficult to tell, but right after that patchy part of the yard ends is where my yard used to end. From there back, it used to be all field. This year, however, I decided to mow all the way to the property line which you can see in the right corner by that tuft of grass and the line where it goes from short to tall. Now, that taller area is usually much, much taller. Once a year, however, that field is cut down and this picture was taken about a week or two after that had happened. So I decided to mow all the way to the property line for two reasons. The first was that I wanted my children to have a larger area to play in. The second was to keep the ticks further at bay. Ticks enjoy taller grass as it puts them at a better level to grab on to their prey. This is also why I keep my lawn mower on one of the lowest settings. Unfortunately, this is also why you see in this picture that there’s still a chunk of lawn that needs to be mowed.

My mower has hit enough stumps, rocks, and what-have-you hidden by the tall grass and bush that it’s not worth the effort of continuously bending the blade back into place. I found a replacement blade specifically for my lawnmower on Amazon.com for only $12.97 that many of the reviews say is better than the one that came with it. At this point, I think I have removed every obstacle that will damage my blade so if I can get a better one for under thirteen dollars, then I’ll wait the two days for it to come in the mail.

In this picture, you can also see my recently dug firepit. So for those of you about to say that the pile in the second picture is a breeding ground for mice which are a breeding ground for ticks, I’ve already planned for that. As time permits, I go out and cut the branches up, making neat stacks based on thickness. These piles are in turn expended in the firepit in which beer is drank in front of in the darkness of night. Yes, there is still quite a ways to go in cutting down the branch piles into neat stacks, but Rome wasn’t built in a day as they say.

Over the next few years, I hope to eventually line the perimeter of my property with a couple of feet (wide, not thick) of mulch or gravel. It is my understanding that these things are not things ticks like to cross, mostly because it’s difficult to grab on to passing prey. I suppose if there was an area that I would be more likely to be stepped on as opposed to being in a place where I could freely hitch a ride and get free drive through, then I too would try to avoid that area.

So now you’ve read some of what I’ve been doing to keep the ticks at bay. It’s not foolproof, but every little bit helps. Still, the ticks find ways to get in. A few weeks ago my son dropped his hat on the ground. It was only there for a moment before he put it back on his head. When we went in the house later, I found a tick crawling through his hair. Also, turkeys are crawling with ticks and those damn birds just love roosting on my lawn for some reason. It’s not uncommon for me too look out the window in the morning and seeing twenty or thirty of them in my back yard. In addition to ticks, they like to leave other surprises, namely digging holes in my yard. I’ve seen them do it.

I would love to hear your comments on what has worked for you at keeping the ticks at bay. Before you say chickens, at the moment, chickens are not feasible to me, though they are delicious. We have too much wildlife and they would most likely be eaten by a fox in no time. On the plus side, we have lots of robins. As soon as I found out that robins are natural predators of ticks, I installed a bird feeder. I want to encourage the robins to stick around for as long as possible.

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What Homeownership Does to a Man

It’s amazing what purchasing a home can do you for you. The things that you previously had no interest in suddenly sound exciting. My wife and I recently purchased the house we’d been living in for nearly two years. It’s a great location. Off the main roads, but not far from anything we need. In fact, the only things of extended distance are work and church. Work is roughly forty-five minutes a way and church is a little over and hour. I certainly don’t mind the drive to work as it gives me a chance to wake up in the morning. And the ride to church is but a small sacrifice to make for ideal living location.

So what makes this location so great? Well for starters, everything we need is just a short drive away. Groceries, family, parks, beach, dining, etc. But at the same time, we’re off of the main roads, so it’s very quiet and peaceful. Plus, my neighbors are my cousin and his wife and then my aunt and uncle further down. Then when you factor in that my aunt and uncle own all the land behind all three of our properties including a large field and an extended distance into the woods, my kids effectively have a back yard anyone would be envious of.

Of course, now that the property is mine, things that previously held no interest seem suddenly exciting. About two weeks ago I walked into Home Depot for the first time with home owner eyes instead of “I need to get such and such at Home Depot” eyes. I had only gone in for one simple item, but for the first time, the power tools section beautiful. I spent way too much time looking at drill bits for my power drill, even though I didn’t need any. I spent time looking over hatchets as there’s some branches I need to hack down behind the property, despite the fact that I can probably just borrow a chainsaw from my uncle. I almost bought a lawn mower just because I wanted to mow the lawn (I still technically need to get one).

Since then, I’ve been researching gravel and fill online. There is a muddy area behind my property that I want to completely cover with rock to prevent vegetation from growing and put a fire pit in there. Eventually, I plan to build my own grill from brick.

I’m looking to get some good rakes and mulch. We’ve got a lovely stone wall that’s been falling into disrepair. Some of the stones have long since embedded themselves into the ground. I want to dig up the stones that have fallen and place them back upon their former glory. I want to remove most of the vegetation near the wall and cover it with mulch to improve it’s beauty.

Inside the home is no different. Now that we have power in the garage, I’m going to be moving all my exercise equipment in there (I have no intention of storing vehicles in it, mostly because it’s on the opposite side of the house). I’ll have a great area to work out and listen to the AM radio. That’s right, I found an old AM radio in the garage and cleaned it up real nice. This way I can listen to Rush Limbaugh when I exercise. Nothing get’s the blood pumping like Rush Limbaugh. Only Alex Jones is more effective.

I’ve already carved out a section of the basement for my wife’s Rock ‘n’ Roll band, Drive by Todd (shameless plug) and now I’m slowly working on carving out my section of the basement. I’m carefully working on making my video game cave, with consoles going back roughly forty years. Now that I own my own space, I’m finally looking to get everything hooked up. Buying the right power strips, the right adaptors and switch. And if anyone knows where I can get a good Sony BVM at a reasonable price, that would be awesome. Video games aren’t going to be the only thing in my area of the basement. I’m going to be hooking up the VCR and building up a substantial VHS horror collection. There are so many great, but lost horror flicks you simply can’t get on DVD, BluRay, or streaming. Also, there’s the simple fact that a lot of the older ones are just better on VHS. A Nightmare on Elm St is one of my favorites, but I don’t recommend any of the recent releases. They cleaned it up too much and you can see everything that you weren’t supposed to.

There’s so much I’m looking forward to doing, stuff that never would’ve carried any interest in me before. It’s a brave new world with such strange people in it, namely me.

 

The Music of My People, Children

When I get old and my grandkids are in their early teens visiting as I sit in my chair staring off into space, I’m going to just start randomly mumbling Kid Rock and Korn lyrics to make them think I’ve lost my mind.

“Bawitdaba, da bang, da bang diggy diggy, diggy, said the boogie, said up jump the boogie.”

“Boom na da noom na na nema, Da boom na da noom na namena, Da boom na ba noom na namena, Da boom na da noom na namena…”

I can only pray that it happens at a family gathering with my cousins and brothers who would hopefully join in to make the kids think we all lost it at once.

It’s A Boy!

On June 22nd at 10:34 PM, David Maxwell Grierson was born. In a previous blog post, I mentioned that on the day my daughter was born, I read to her Genesis 1 and I had yet to decide what I would read to my next child. Up until he was born, I still had no idea. After a few hours of sleep, I held my son in my arms and I knew.

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Genesis 2 on what was technically the day after he was born, but seriously, it wasn’t even 10 hours later. It may have been even less than 9 hours later.

Genesis 2 was what I read to him hours after he was born. It seemed appropriate. Second child, second chapter. First son, first man. Somehow, nothing could be more appropriate. And so I held him and I read.

It’s been an adjustment. My daughter tries to be helpful, but she’s not old enough to understand how her “helpfulness” is actually problematic. My poor wife only gets an hour to three hours of sleep a night. I started a new job so I need to make sure I get my sleep so I can perform to support my family. We’re breastfeeding (well, she is…it’d be kinda weird if I was breastfeeding) so it’s not like I would be much help when he wakes up hungry anyways. I try to help out in other ways though. My new job has much better hours, so I’m actually home for more hours than when I’m just sleeping so I pick up slack in the areas of laundry, dishes, and helping with the toddler. Trust me, trying to teach a two year old proper toy organization is hard when they don’t grasp that the toy hot dog does not go with the toy dairy; it goes with the toy fish and toy hamburger.

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Seriously, three year olds back in the day were expected to sort berries. Why can’t my near two year old separate fish and milk on the toy shelf? I swear, if she’s not programming a VCR by the time she’s five, it’s back to the womb with her.

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress LC-DIG-nclc-00791

Kidding aside, I’m the happiest I’ve been in a long time. I wouldn’t change a thing. My wife may wish I produced milk, but I wouldn’t change a thing.

Repentless Child

Last evening as I sat down at the computer to do a few things before playing Yahtzee with my wife, my two and a half year old daughter ran up to me exclaiming, “Daddy, daddy! Play some music.” Being the totally responsible parent that I am, I obliged and put on some Judas Priest. I was initially disappointed when she told me “Daddy, I don’t like this one,” as Judas Priest is my favorite band. Worried, that I was going to have to disown her, she surprised me when she pointed at my screen and said, “Daddy, I want to play that one.” She was too far away for me to see exactly what she was pointing at so I picked her up and brought her close enough to point directly to it. When I asked her what one she wanted again, she placed her finger on the screen and said that one. It was Slayer’s newest album.

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You can really see the childlike appeal.

“Slayer?” I asked.

“Yeah! I love Slayer!” she exclaimed with great delight.

Despite having never used the Amazon music player before nor ever seen me use it, my daughter deftly grabbed the mouse that was on the desk, moved the curser over the album cover to reveal the PLAY button and pressed it. Immediately, the soothing tones of Slayer’s Implode came bursting out of my computer’s speakers. With a squeal of glee, my daughter got down on the floor and began thrashing about like a true metal head. Normally, I wouldn’t allow her to listen to Slayer, but the sheer hilarity of it all coupled with the fact that my daughter picked and seemed to genuinely enjoy good music, I decided to allow her in this instance. Following with the song Repentless, she ran back and forth screaming with a psychotic giddiness as her arms flailed in the air. Truly this was my child.

This morning as we got ready for church, my daughter politely informed me, “I want some Slayer, Dada.” Sorry Olive, but I’m not turning the computer on as I get us ready for Church just so you can listen to Slayer. In the car, my wife decided to put on some Gangnam Style to make the ride more enjoyable. Olive was whole unimpressed and appeared to be quite disappointed in us. I feigned mild disappointment but deep down, I was proud of my little girl.

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Too imature for a two year old, yet adults everywhere were mesmerized for a year straight.

After Church, we visited some of my wife’s good friends. My daughter somehow managed to quickly find the CDs in their house which is amusing because we almost never use CDs, so I’m not fully sure where she picked on the fact that these discs play music. Kids will always manage to surprise you, I suppose. When one of the girls of the house asked what she was doing, my daughter politely responded with, “I want to listen to Slayer.”

The poor girl was taken aback, as if she didn’t know what to say. “Slayer?” she managed to get out.

“Yeah!” said my child. “I love Slayer!”

Now, I don’t believe this family had any Slayer. They seemed like an earthy bunch and earthy people can’t stand Slayer. Not really sure why, but I suspect that when the sky rains blood, it isn’t very good for the plants. Anyhow, Olive kept asking this poor family to play Slayer for some time. Eventually, they were able to get her off the subject and have a delightful afternoon with the lass.

I still have much work to do in teaching my child of good music, but the Slayer incident has given me hope. There is a ray of sunshine that says I may not have to put up with the latest boy band or vapid pop singer in twelve or so years, but may instead be treated to the classics of my own youth, or at the very least, bands that don’t suck.

I Fancied a Barbie Once

I had a Barbie doll once. I’d actually asked my mother for one. I wasn’t queer or effeminate or anything. The other side just had something that I didn’t and I wanted to know what the deal was. All the girls had them and seemed to love them, so clearly there was something cool about them and I was determined to find out what it was.

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It’s gotta be the shopping for accessories. Look at those pants!

So when I got one, I took it with me totally unashamed. In a time when being either a nerd or having a Barbie doll would get your ass kicked, I incredibly made it through unscathed as I was both was a nerd and carried a Barbie. Perhaps it was my gaze that kept people from taunting and dolling out endless wedgies. As I combed her hair and changed her outfits, my look was not one of joy and amusement but one of science and determination.

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FOR SCIENCE!

Alas, through all my study, I never discovered the joy that could be had in Barbies or dolls in general. Disinterested and unamused, the doll went to the wayside. I honestly don’t recall doing anything else with it, though I feel as though I would’ve had much more joy with it had I decapitated the damn thing. In fact, I hope I did, though I cannot say for certain whether I did or not.

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And totally would’ve been at the hands of Storm Shadow.

With a second child on the way, if it turns out to be a boy whom I shall teach manly things, I worry about the time when he too yearns to decapitate Barbie dolls. For my daughter loves dolls and even has a Barbie. How shall I react when the time comes to wrestle with my desire to defend my daughter from terror and horror and my delight in destruction of all things not manly. Oh, the struggles we must face as parents.

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Like “Should I put that money towards my child’s education or build that life size replica of Abe Lincoln out of ravioli.” What would make Jesus more proud? Does he even like ravioli or does he prefer tuna?

Oh God!

A week or so ago, we as a family were sitting down to a dinner. As it was, we happened to be consuming pizza. As we were eating, my wife and I were discussing our day as our daughter sat in her high chair eating her portion. As my wife conversed, we suddenly heard loudly from the direction of our child, “Oh God!”

We stopped suddenly and looked at each other, eyes wide with shock. I could tell by looking at my wife that she was thinking the same thing as I was. Our thoughts were, “Oh no! Our daughter must have heard one of us in some moment of frustration saying something we ought not say.” It was a perfectly reasonable thought. Everyone says things they wish they didn’t when they’re mad or frustrated and I don’t exactly have the most delicate tongue when I am such a state. This isn’t an excuse for any sinful actions I may incur; I’m merely just pointing out how sometimes our sin gets the better of us and sometimes we show more than we desire to.

Anyhow, when we turned and looked to our daughter, we were pleasantly surprised. There she was with her head down, eyes closed, and hands clasped, continuing her prayer. After the forcefully loud words of, “Oh God!,” we here the much softer words of, “Mama and dada,” and then a few seconds of silence. Before we could get an “Awww,” in, however, there was another boisterous, “Oh God!” followed a more normal toned, “the pizza. Amen.”

It was sweet, really it was. Though I realize I need to take better mind of my own tongue. Considering how loud the, “Oh God!” was compared to everything else in the prayer, I’ve little doubt that she must heard me exclaim it in frustration at some point. However, considering her use, I must presume that she saw it as some form of prayer.

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A very powerful prayer…

It reminds me of that certain amount of innocence in a child. There’s something really special about that. I’ve always stated I wanted to raise my children to be better than myself. This is a good reminder that although I’ve got a long way to go, I’ve at least got them started on the right path and that I need to make sure I don’t wander too much myself lest I lead them astray.

Picking Scripture

When my daughter was born, I held her in my arms and read chapter one of Genesis to her. It was a touching moment and something I had pledged to do long before she was born. It just somehow seemed appropriate.

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Genesis 1 on the day she was born.

Yet now with a second child a mere six or seven months away, I want to do the same thing but I have yet to figure out what I shall chose for him or her.

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Really hoping I don’t find some years down the road that the appropriate scripture should’ve been Revelation 13.

I suppose this presents me with a good opportunity to buckle down on scripture, something I’ve been neglecting a bit lately. It’s interesting to see how these little nudges come when they’re needed. Now, I’m not saying it’s some cosmic force that’s pushing me into immersing myself into the scriptures when I really need it. It could be mere coincidence. I’m not willing to assign happenings to God based on a feeling. That would put me in dangerously close proximity to the false prophets camp.

Anyhow, any suggestions would be great. This being my second child, I would like to pick something that would be appropriate. With my first, I started with the beginning and since I don’t think this will be my last, I don’t think I should pick something near the end. I’ve always been quite partial to the story of Joseph in Genesis and the book of Mark if you’re looking for an idea of my tastes.