Belle of Dirt

Missouri Ozarks mom, mover of earth, photographer, maker and plant enthusiast


Leave a comment

O-Positive tastes great!

Amblyomma_americanum_tick

It’s that time of year folks, when every flying, creeping, crawling thing seems like it wants to dine on our blood. If you’re a lucky O-Positive blood type like myself, those mosquitoes find you extra tasty- it’s like they’re upgrading from Steak & Shake to Outback for the same price.
I’ve seen a lot of discussion on social media lately about what to use to keep the creepy-crawlies at bay without coating yourself in DEET or mummifying yourself in bug netting.

I can’t help you AS much if you’re walking game trails in the woods… you’re GOING to get something on you if you’re wandering the path of tick’s favorite food. They’ll even dive bomb your head from the trees in the woods. I can offer a couple of tips that work well for me:

1) I don’t wear long pants. I know this goes against the common suggestion of “wear pants tucked into boots” but in late July/August, it’s just too damned hot for that!
I do wear knee-high boots if I’m walking through the woods, since I don’t want to go to the hospital for a snake bite, but I wear shorts with them. Yeah, it’s not very fashion forward, but in the shorts I can FEEL what’s crawling up my legs before it reaches my waistband or other objectionable areas.

2) Carry one of those sticky-paper lint rollers if you’re in the woods. If you’ve ever had the lovely experience of touching a plant or spot on the ground, only to have your hand come away crawling with hundreds of little black seed ticks, then you know how horrifying it can be. If you haven’t, count yourself lucky and hope you never need this trick. It’s impossible to brush, wash or pick all of them off before half of them make all the way up your limb. A sticky lint roller can be a LIFE SAVER. Carry it in a baggie, so you can put the wadded up, tick covered paper in something to take back to the house and burn. (Deer get angry if you litter in the woods and will come to your yard and eat your Hosta for revenge.) Roll the lint roller over your clothes or your dog a few times before you put it in the baggie, so it won’t stick to the baggie. Tear off a fresh sheet to capture ticks.

Finally, I don’t use OFF or any other DEET preparation anymore. The CDC published an article in 2015 that said, “Oil of lemon eucalyptus is a plant-based mosquito repellent that provided protection time similar to low concentration DEET products in two recent studies…”
I’ll be adding the lemon oil of eucalyptus to my current concoction when I get it in the mail. If you don’t want all the details, skip down to where it says RECIPE. If you want to know why I use this  spray and what’s in it, keep reading.

The CDC recommends use of one of these for protection against ticks and mosquitoes:

800px-Mosquito_Tasmania_cropOil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE)

DEET (chemical name: N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide or N,N-diethyl-3-methyl-benzamide). Products containing DEET include, but are not limited to, Off!, Cutter, Sawyer, and Ultrathon. There are rumors that DEET can cause cancer, although there is not sufficient evidence yet to classify it as a carcinogen. It does come with warnings that used improperly, it can cause seizures or have toxic side effects. It has been banned in some European countries. Can cause damage to plastics.

Picaridin (KBR 3023 [Bayrepel] and icaridin outside the US; chemical name: 2-(2-hydroxyethyl)-1-piperidinecarboxylic acid 1-methylpropyl ester). Products containing picaridin include, but are not limited to, Cutter Advanced, Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus, and Autan (outside the US). EPA considers to be slightly toxic used directly on skin and warns you should keep it away from eyes.

PMD (chemical name: para-menthane-3,8-diol), the synthesized version of OLE. Products containing OLE and PMD include, but are not limited to, Repel and Off ! Botanicals. This recommendation refers to EPA-registered products containing the active ingredient OLE (or PMD). “Pure” oil of lemon eucalyptus (essential oil not formulated as a repellent) is not recommended; it has not undergone similar, validated testing for safety and efficacy and is not registered with EPA as an insect repellent.

IR3535 (chemical name: 3-[N-butyl-N-acetyl]-aminopropionic acid, ethyl ester). Products containing IR3535 include, but are not limited to, Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus Expedition and SkinSmart. May dissolve or damage plastics like DEET, eye irritant.

2-undecanone (chemical name: methyl nonyl ketone). The product BioUD contains 2-undecanone.

My current spray uses plain Eucalyptus oil, I’ll be switching to the Lemon Eucalyptus oil. I’ve been using this spray for years now, adding this, removing that. The current formulation keeps off ticks, fleas, chiggers, biting flies, gnats, mosquitoes, kills and repels spiders and ants. (It does not work great on Japanese beetles, unfortunately) I still get the occasional tick on me, but this was also true when I used Deep Woods OFF regularly.

Also, the OFF smells horrid to me and it didn’t seem to bother biting flies one bit.

Here’s what’s in my home-made spray : Cedar oil, Lemon Eucalyptus oil, peppermint oil, water. That’s it. Simple, natural insect repellent. (The cedar oil I use contains Ethyl lactate as a carrier, a chemical compound found in alcohol, cabbages, peas, vinegar, bread… ) This stuff also smells awesome! It’s earthy because of the cedar oil and fresh/clean because of the mint and eucalyptus. I’ve sprayed it on myself, the dogs when they’ve been in the chigger and tick ridden hay fields, around the yard before we have friends over, around the patio and on plants that are being chowed on by insects. I even use it in my daughter’s hair when there is a lice breakout at school.

RECIPE>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

I buy a big bottle of this stuff from Amazon.com: It’s  called Wondercide and has two ingredients; cedar oil and Ethyl lactate as a carrier. The bottle I have has lasted over 3 years now. (I linked the picture to Amazon). I have an old Windex bottle that I add about 3 capfuls

wondercideof this, 6-7 drops of Eucalyptus oil and 6-7 drops of Peppermint oil. I used to use Lemon Balm, but couldn’t tell that it did much. I added the Eucalyptus oil when I found that spiders hate it- I was bitten by a brown recluse last year and did not want a repeat experience. Fill the rest of the bottle with water and shake it up to mix everything well. Then just spray on all the things!
I would avoid getting this in your eyes, since the peppermint oil will burn if you get it in eyes. The spray doesn’t taste all the fantastic either. Best to just avoid mucus membranes period. Otherwise, spray away.

FYI, I do use this in the house to kill insects too, as cedar oil is toxic to many of them. I don’t spray it on the cats, since they lick themselves A LOT more than the dogs do. When I spray the dogs, I usually just put it on their back where they don’t do a lot of licking. I’ve read on Wondercide’s site that it won’t hurt dogs because it’s properly diluted and we always had cedar bedding in our dog’s houses that never hurt them… still, I wouldn’t want them drinking the stuff, regardless of how safe they say it is. They do have formulations on their website for animals and other specific uses. If you’re allergic to any of the ingredients, obviously don’t use it… or play around with the formula and find a substitute. Many people itch or get a rash from touching cedar leaves, this isn’t formulated from the leaves, it’s made from the woody part of the tree, but some people and animals are also sensitive to the oils from the wood. Use your best judgement.
If you can’t use cedar oil, I’ve seen a couple commercial organic formulations from OFF and Avon Skin So Soft that may work for you, using just lemon eucalyptus. They’re starting to embrace the plant-based, chemical free movement, at least as a side-line.

*I would avoid the use of ANY of the chemicals listed on this page around aquatic life. Several of the commercial chemicals above warn that they will kill aquatic animals and/or amphibians. I couldn’t find anything about cedar oil being toxic to marine life, (One study I read stated little or no effect) but I still wouldn’t spray it on you hands and stick them in your fish tank. 

PS. If you DO wind up in a nest of chiggers in spite of using sprays you STILL itch all over, we use Dr Bronner’s soap  and take a shower in it from head to toe. It smells a bit strong, but it will get rid of the itch and any residual critters that are lurking on your skin. It’s also the best stuff in the world for acne- particularly the cystic kind. The bottle is covered in religious writing (which is why we’ve nicknamed it “God Soap”), once I got one covered in political writing instead… anyway, it’s wonderful stuff, weird writing on the label and all.

PPS. My site and myself are in no way affiliated with Amazon, the CDC or any of these products linked on here. I’m not selling anything, just sharing what has worked well for myself and my family. I don’t earn anything from your clicking on these links. Also, I’m not a medical doctor. If you use this stuff, you do it at your own risk and your own discretion. If you come to my house, be warned, I might spray it on you. (I usually ask first.)

 

Sources:

CDC Adopts New Repellent Guidance For Upcoming Mosquito Season:  https://www.cdc.gov/media/pressrel/r050428.htm

Juniper’s Toxicity on Marine Life https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20033284

Repellents for Use on Skin and Clothing https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2018/the-pre-travel-consultation/protection-against-mosquitoes-ticks-other-arthropods

Peppermint essential oil 

Lemon Eucalyptus Essential Oil 

DEET free OFF Formulation 

Dr Bronner’s Soap

Advertisements


Leave a comment

Blister Beetle Battle

My daughter and I have been SO proud of our cherry tomato plants that we grew from seed this spring; we nursed them in sunny windows until they were fledgling plants big enough for the garden. All through the past couple months we have mulched, fed and watered them, excited and accomplished when the first blossoms emerged, turned to green fruits and then to red. We look forward each day to going out in the yard and picking our little cherries.

Blister beetle noshing a leaf

I first spotted a couple of beetles yesterday morning while watering. Since there were only two, I hand-picked them off the plants and squashed them under a boot, then went about my business. Where the beetles had been eating, there were some black flaky looking bits of stuff, but they sprayed off easily with the garden hose.

Next afternoon, we were out working on building our new deck and I checked our plants for ready tomatoes as usual. I was horrified to discover that our plants were now COVERED in striped beetles, noshing away on the leaves until they looked like lace. They’d started from the bottom and made rapid work towards the top, leaving little but green fruits and stems.
I panicked.

In spite of years growing ornamentals, countless trees, shrubs and flowers, this is my first year with a vegetable garden. In the past, I liberally used chemical fertilizers, weed controls and pesticides in my yard to control whatever ailment my plants suffered, whether fungus, insect damage or other. One season I lost over half the plants I’d worked so diligently to grow for two years from a Weed and Feed fertilizer that I either applied too liberally or the chemical was simply too harsh for what I was trying to grow.

Until this week, when faced with a blister beetle battle, my chemical use had been almost non-existent for several years. Compost and lawn clippings, kitchen scraps, manure and leaves were my fertilizers. The pond next to the garden attracted frogs and birds to help prevent pests on the ornamentals. Recycled milk and cat litter jugs served as slow-watering systems, rather than buying many feet of soaker hose or sprinklers.
There was a bag of Sevin dust sitting in the back of the cabinet; had been there for at least 5 years or so, unopened. Faced with all that cherry tomato destruction (I swear I could HEAR them chomping away), I ran in, grabbed the Sevin dust and threw liberal handfuls all over the plants. I watched with great satisfaction as those chewing little buggers began dropping off, writhing and squirming. I hoped in vengeance of my plants that they were suffering greatly.

It occurred to me following this rash dumping of handfuls of poisonous dust all over my garden that I had done just that; next to the frog pond and all over the food we intended to eat. I decided I’d try to minimize the spread of the poison to the pond water and hosed everything down liberally the next morning until the water ran clear into the yard. I’m hoping it didn’t leach much into the pond water and won’t hurt my frogs in the long run. We’ll be carefully washing anything we eat off of those plants for a while. L

Beetle Blisters

The articles on the internet about these beetles did little, if anything to make me feel better about their being in my garden, after seeing pictures of the damage they could cause to both plant and human skin. The Striped Blister Beetle produces a substance called cantharadin that causes horrible blisters on skin; it is also toxic to animals. An article from Texas A & M Entomology claimed that a horse could be killed by ingesting only 2 or more of the beetles, even if the beetles were dead.  Farmers have had trouble with attacks on their alfalfa crops and the beetles in turn, winding up in livestock feed.

The beetles look very similar to a lightning bug; they are about the same size and shape, but with very distinctive stripe patterns on their backs. They lay their eggs in cells just beneath the soil surface. Adult beetles eat foliage and fruit, while the larvae are said to feed on grasshopper eggs. (This was the ONLY beneficial fact I could find about them)

Several blogs and forums I read stated that people had minimal success with hand picking (be sure to wear gloves!) and dropping them into a container of soapy water. Most complained that there were SO MANY by the time they noticed them that this was impossible without using a vacuum cleaner to do the job.
A couple people mentioned a homemade spray made up of organic dish soap, canola oil, 2 cloves of garlic and red pepper flakes strained into a tea as an was effective method of getting rid of them. They did mention that this spray, while safe on vegetables (wash before eating of course) for human consumption, seemed to kill beneficial pollinators such as bees and butterflies as well. Some suggested protecting plants with mosquito netting. This of course only works if you get to the plants before they are infested with the little monsters.

I can say from my own experience that the Sevin dust worked to kill them beautifully, but there’s no telling what else it killed before I washed it off. There were quite a few dead daddy long legs hanging off the plants when I rinsed them the next morning. If I happen to get unlucky with another visiting swarm, I’ll head to the grocery store and try some of the organic spray I mentioned above instead.

Any of you had to fight the blister beetle battle? What did you use to get the little buggers to move on?


Leave a comment

I’m SO gonna feel that tomorrow

My 3 year old daughter has been my little garden helper the past couple days. She’s at that age now where she’s able to learn that there is an actual purpose to playing in dirt, besides the obvious perk of getting dirty or eating it.
We decided that this year we were going to grow some veggies. I didn’t want to spend a lot of $, I’ve had good success with tomatoes in the past and a cucumbers, but I’m fairly sure it’s a near impossibility to screw up either of those. This year we are getting a bit more ambitious.
We browsed the seed catalogs and ordered 8 packets of veggies and a couple of flowers we liked. The seeds we chose were 1) Roma tomato 2) cherry tomato 3) sweet red pepper 4) sweet heirloom yellow onion 5) sweet yellow pepper 6) sweet orange bell pepper and 7) mini cucumber. We also got packets of echinacea (purple coneflower), sunflowers and a marigold mix. I picked the marigolds in particular, because they are a natural insect deterrent and I’m hoping they’ll keep my need to spray or dust to a minimum (if at all). I’m a big fan of natural insect control and fertilizer, I hate dumping poisons around or on the stuff we plan to eat. We’re also putting a pond right in the middle of the garden bed. This will encourage the many frogs we have nearby to hang out and munch on the insects invading our veggie patch.
I’m building trellis straight up the side of the house out of just simple wire to support the vines. Nothing fancy and very inexpensive. I’m hoping the vines will pull double duty and absorb some of the heat that would otherwise be beating down on that southern exposure of the house. Due to our satellite TV and wireless internet, I can’t plant a tree there to block the afternoon sun. The veggies are going right into an old flower bed that was formerly full of nothing but tiger lily and butterfly bush. I had put off for years doing a vegetable garden, thinking I needed a formal space. They’re plants. They can grow in any garden bed and they don’t mind if they’re next to flowers. Silly me.
Some seeds need to be started indoors several weeks before the last frost and then transplanted outside. We’ve been saving gallon milk and water jugs for the past couple months to use as mini-greenhouses. I’m hoping they work well. They should help keep the seedlings warm, give them filtered light and help trap moisture in the jugs so the soil doesn’t completely dry out. I cut the tops nearly all the way around, leaving the two halves attached at the handle. My daughter helped me fill the bottoms with soil, then we sprinkled on our seeds, added another light layer of dirt and misted this really well with water. We’ll be checking them each day and misting with more water as needed. The jugs are also easy to write on, so you can identify what’s what when you’re ready to transplant the seedlings. I’ve saved egg cartons for when we get to that stage.
The bed outside is just a raised bed, filled partially with native soil, outlined with rocks I’ve picked up around the yard and in the woods. I’ve added some potting soil and quite a lot of compost as well, our native soil here is mostly rocks and clay. Clay has decent nutrient content, but not great drainage and isn’t always the best medium for young, tender roots.
We’ll post more pictures and updates of our trials or success as the project moves along.  I haven’t done this kind of digging or planting for a couple years now, going to be feeling this tomorrow! 🙂