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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Dennis the F***ing Menace

It’s not terribly often I actually contact a company about it’s content. Honestly, my opinion is the company can have whatever content they please. But every now any then, I come across some questionable decisions and even more questionable algorithms. So begins my gripe with Hulu.

I don’t use Hulu often, but they’ve got a few programs I like and they give me a good monthly cost. I have a children’s account setup for my daughter, but the show selection is honestly dubious at best. It’s mostly just terrible/stupid programming that has no redeemable qualities whatsoever and when you do find a good quality show that children can appreciate, it’s only available on a regular user’s account. And sometimes further, the logic behind what is acceptable on a children’s account and what is not makes no sense. Now, I like the Dick Van Dyke show as much as the next guy, but can anyone tell me why this is available on the children’s account but Dennis the Menace isn’t?

Anyhow, because of such nonsensical decision making and my great disdain for most of the other programing on the children’s account, I will occasionally allow my daughter to watch a show on my account as long as I approve of it. One such program we enjoy watching together is the 1959 version of Dennis the Menace. Oh, the mischief that boy gets into. How is he going to torment Mr. Wilson next? I guess I’ll just have to watch and find out.

So I had the house mostly to myself a few weekends ago and I thought I would sit and watch an episode of Dennis the Menace by myself (don’t let my daughter know that I watched it without her). It was the episode where Dennis threw out Mr. Wilsons old phone book not knowing there was a slip for $500 worth of stocks inside. Oh, that Dennis. Anyhow, it was during the second commercial break that a commercial for Shameless came on, a show I actually want to see. I was a little surprised that the commercial was running during an episode of Dennis the Menace, but I didn’t really put too much thought into it. I mean really, what’s actually going to happen in an advertisement during a family show?

The word “fucking” happened, actually. It was very clearly and forcefully said in the commercial. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it was verbalized in all caps. I was shocked. I couldn’t believe it. It was in the middle of the day during a family show. Now, I realize Hulu is an online pay service and I pick the programming I want to watch when I want to watch it, but surely they must have an algorithm for choosing ads better than this, right? Like, if I was watching say Dexter of Spartacus, I absolutely would’ve expected a commercial like this and not given a second thought about the f-bomb. But I wasn’t watching Dexter or Spartacus or anything of the sort. I was watching old fashioned, good wholesome, family friendly, 1959 black and white Dennis the Menace. You’d think whatever algorithm they use for choosing advertisements would be considerably better. If I watch the Addams Family, are they going to recommend me Game of Thrones and show somebody in the process of becoming his own uncle?

I called the company. Can you believe it? A major corporation this day and age that still has a customer service line that was semi-easy to find. You’d be surprised how uncommon that is. Anyhow, the lady I spoke with a extremely friendly and absolutely wonderful. Exactly what a customer service rep should be. She was surprised to hear that an ad for Shameless came on during Dennis the Menace and even more shocked to hear that an f-bomb was dropped in it. She actually asked the same question a couple different ways to make sure that she was hearing what I was saying correctly. “It wasn’t censored? It was clear? During Dennis the Menace?” She was very sympathetic. And assured me that she was going to be taking this to their….I forgot what she called the team, I think it was a content department something, but she must’ve gotten it done as I haven’t seen a single inappropriate advertisement since, not even on shows were I would expect an ad like that.

So I have to give great props to Hulu and their customer service rep. It was honestly a much better experience than I would’ve imagined. There was a surprisingly bad hiccup in their advertising and they handled it splendidly. I hope that lady gets a raise.