19 June 2013

La Belle's Hobby Farm: The Well-Dressed Gardener

The art of gardening....In this the artist who lays out the work, and devises a garment for a piece of ground, has the delight of seeing his work live and grow hour by hour; and, while it is growing, he is able to polish, to cut and carve, to fill up here and there, to hope, and to love.
~ Prince Albert


T
ick season is upon us ~ literally. 

In the past four weeks, I’ve discovered four of the little (non-sexy) vampires on my leg, in my bed, and on my cat.  Methinks kissing his furry head is suspended until the fall.

At least three of my friends suffer from various stages of Lyme disease, so when I found one of the critters in teeny-tiny form latched on to my waist, I immediately plucked the offender off and drowned him.  In hindsight, I should have put him in a jar and taken him in for questioning (i.e. testing for Lyme, mwhahahaha!)

Barring Bantams and Guineas
Over the past year, I’ve contemplated and researched the pros and cons of keeping chickens.  Pros: they eat ticks, their manure is pure gold as far as compost is concerned, and they aerate the ground with their scratching.  Not to mention they lay eggs and taste really good deep fried! 

Cons: they stink, and other things besides humans eat them.  Namely, the coyotes that run around the fields pranking the cows, and the domestic dog.  And probably the tick laden cat wouldn’t mind a bite too.

But owning chickens was a step I wasn’t ready for this year, no matter the tick-eating benefits.  Next best non-chemical option? 

Dress appropriately.  

I feel a Gardening Meme coming on: What I Think I Do 
 © Brian Chase, Mother Nature
Magic and Mother Nature
Since I tend to have a reaction to grass clippings and I happen to like my nails to remain clean and unbroken, I’ve learned to wear heavy-duty gloves when working in the garden and around the yard.  You would think that this same logic would apply to the rest of my apparel.

You would think wrong.

Earlier this season, I decided I would multi-task in my garden: get work done and get a tan.  So I wore shorts and a tank top.  Three things happened:

·        I got tan
·        I got a something-other-than-poison-ivy rash all over my arms
·        I got a tick

I knew those reports on the evils of multi-tasking were true!  

Mother Nature is rockin’ it in the photo above.  And we could all dress like her if helping veggies grow and flower bloom only took a smile, a word, or the wave of a hose-wand.  And, yes, I smile at my plants, I praise them for growing “sooooo big!” and I water them at the right times and in the right amounts.  But even in fairy-tale settings, war must be waged.  And make no mistake about it ~ we are at war.   And the enemy will find a weakness, take advantage of it, and bring us (and our veggies) down.

War, my friends, is dirty.

Does this Shovel Make My Garden Look Big?
The best defense is a good offense and it’s no less true in the garden.  And when it comes to ticks ~ and rash-inducing weeds and plants ~ they look for one thing: warm, exposed flesh.  Much more difficult for them to sense the nectar of life flowing just under our skin if said skin is covered in thick, heavy denim and long sleeves.

And yes, I swear weeds and plants are evil masterminds that can smell blood and weakness.  Look, another human!  Dig in boys, she’s going to try to rip us out with her bare hands!  Rookie!!!

One of my favorite British films is Room with a View and there’s a scene in the manor garden of the lady of the house clipping her prize roses.  In full Edwardian dress and hat.  She even had the requisite gardening gloves on.  Technically she was well protected from ticks and weeds.  But as much as I would love to garden in the full costume of any period, let’s be honest: the bulk of the war on weeds and pests was done by the gardeners.  And those guys dressed in tough, durable pants and shirts and thick boots.  All she had to do was sit on a little stool and prune some tiny branches.

If you want to enjoy a garden tea in full Regency regalia on a Sunday, then you will either have to hire a gardener, or dress like one on Saturday.

Best combat outfit for avoiding ticks (and therefore Lyme disease) are jeans with the legs tucked into thick socks, boots, and a long sleeved shirt. I know ~ hot as Haman ~ but then, if you thought gardening was sitting on a stool and clipping roses, you are in the wrong business/hobby. 

Or the wrong era.

Ugly Dress, Beautiful Plants
When the younger version of me weeded and picked the nearly 2.5 acres of veggies my family grew, I wore denim sundresses and no shoes.  And I do miss those days of squished mud toes, sprinkler races and easy tan lines.  But I don’t miss the tick bites.  Trust me, you won’t either.  Gardening is a messy business and it calls for mess-ready clothes.  Besides, who are you trying to impress with your natty gardening fashion?

Better to impress them with a nattily dressed garden.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela
Make sure your shirt sleeves are tucked inside your gloves! And remember to take your gardening clothes off outside, in the garage or mud room and check them (and yourself!) for ticks.  If you can, wash/soak your clothes immediately and take a hot shower.
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