Friday, December 20, 2013

Deer Tick Wars

Deer ticks and Lyme disease have become factors that limit our enjoyment of time spent outside in the open air.  We know people that have had their lives severely impacted by this disease.  Our daughter worked with a newly blind college student whose condition was attributed to Lyme disease.  A former student of mine had his teaching career ended by the disability that followed his infection.  Becky and I have both served as hosts to deer ticks and I tested positive for the infection but suffered no permanent after effects.  We now dress in white clothing from head to toe while working outside with only our faces are uncovered.  Naked inspection follows each day spent working in the gardens.  Special tweezers make tick removal quick and complete.

We used to see the barberry as an attractive bush but no more!  Recent studies have identified barberry shrubs as a perfect host for ticks.  Despite the statewide ban on outdoor burning, the DEC recommends  destroying these plants by fire and poisoning the stump and roots.  With a generous snow cover and the forecast of rain, it seemed like the perfect day to attack a barberry growing into one of my favorite walking paths with a fire.

The bright yellow color of the interior wood came as a surprise to me.  I wondered if this wood was ever used in inlay work for chests of drawers.  Such thoughts were pushed aside and the shrub was cut into small straight pieces that would support fire.  A small fire can consume wood faster than I can cut it so a fair sized pile was cut before the fire was lit.  Chunks of long dead white pine were added because they burn fiercely.

Several hours were spent in the company of new snow, light rain and chickadees.  A resident deer snorted at me as I was working in one of their regular paths.  I reek of wood smoke, was slightly drenched but thoroughly enjoyed the time spent outside.

Barberry thorns did contribute to today's activity.  According to the DEC, transmission of the ticks from the bush to the deer happens when the deer use the bush as a scratching post.  The thorns did manage to penetrate my gloves and pierce my fingers today.  The words used to express my displeasure were somewhat inaccurate and completely inappropriate.  Questioning the martial status of a plants parents is absolute nonsense as is suggesting that its mother was a dog.  Indicating that the plant was capable of both thought and independent motion was absurd.  The plant took no active part in attacking me and it is incapable of the act I credited it with.

This area of hedgerow separates the river bottom field from our hummocky ground.  A wall of sorts marks the edge of ground suitable for cultivation.  I frequently take a detour here when returning from the mailbox.  Rain ended the burn of the barberry today but I will complete the job later.   Anything that may reduce the number of ticks here is well worth doing.


Pamela said...

I found your blog by accident. I wanted to let you know that I love it, my husband was a self taught stone mason. He passed away 19 years ago. One of the best things he taught me was to appreciate the natural beauty and wonder of stones. He was known as the "masons mason", many brick masons called on him to do their stone work.
Your work is wonderful!! Keep it up
I live in upstate NY also

PlantPostings said...

I had no idea about the relationship between ticks and Barberry! Very good to know, and thanks for sharing the link to the research. We have several Barberries here that were here when we moved in many years back. I really need to get around to replacing them with native shrubs. Oh, by the way, I chuckled several times while reading this post.

RETA said...

I loved reading your post. It is a sad thing that these predators disrupt the beauty of the garden (having to burn the shrubs),and that you have to be so very careful out there. You do live in an incredibly wonderful place though.
Take care.