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.

 

Of Beards and Presidents

I stopped shaving sometime back in October in preparation for Grow-vember. Grow-vember came and went and I kept on not shaving. I’d thought about it, but then I remembered last year when the day after I shaved, we got the coldest weeks we’d had all winter. I’m not going to fall for that again. When spring arrives is when I’ll go back to my traditional appearance. My beard has become quite full over the months, so much so that my wife has informed me that I’m starting to look like the 19th United States President Rutherford B. Hayes and that it turns her on. Had I known that my wife was into well dressed bearded old men, I’d have perhaps updated my wardrobe and spoken more gruffly. As it stands, I have some work to do.

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Bringing sexy back.

Rutherford was one of only five Presidents to have a beard and one of only twelve to have facial hair of any sort. The last president to sport facial hair was William Howard Taft from 1909 to 1913, who had a moustache. It’s been over one hundred years since we’ve had a president with hair on their face which I’m sure has been of great detriment to our great country. Oh, sure, the founding fathers were clean shaven, but look at the time and what was taking place. A good shave was probably one of the few great luxuries they could enjoy, and yes, shaving can be luxurious if done proper. Between war, disease, back breaking labor, FOUNDING AN ENTIRE COUNTRY, and a myriad of other problems, the shaving ritual probably felt like one the few moments of pure bliss and delight. If you’ve never had a proper shave with a hot towel and a straight razor, you’ve never shaved a day in your life.

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Exactly what it feels like after a proper shave.

The last candidate to run for president with any kind of facial hair whatsoever (until now) was Thomas E. Dewey in 1948. Some have gone so far as to credit his moustache with the reason for losing. Both times. Now I’m not saying there’s any correlation here, but I find it mighty suspicious that the last time we see facial hair in the highest seat in the country is just before women got the right to vote. Now we’ve had a hundred plus year absence of the stuff. Then again, maybe it just goes with the fashion of the times. The longest streak of presidents with facial hair was 6 over a period of twenty years. That’s half of them in a twenty year span in the roughly two hundred and forty years we’ve been a nation. Still, until recently, there’s never been a century long gap in facial hair either. Perhaps todays ladies find facial hair threatening. Now that I think about it, perhaps this is the real reason Ben Carson won’t win.

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“Oh, god! What the hell is that on his face!?”

Let that be a lesson to the next Libertarian who want’s a shot at winning the presidency. Find a way to get the Republican and Democrat nominees to both have facial hair, then come out with a smooth face. There’s no way he could lose.

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“The beard, being a half-mask, should be forbidden by the police – It is, moreover, as a sexual symbol in the middle of the face, obscene: that is why it pleases women.” -Arthur Schopenhauer