Monday, September 18, 2017

Once Bit, Twice Shy Part Two

After my run-in with the yellow jackets on Saturday afternoon, I was pretty much done with gardening or anything else for the rest of the weekend.  Saturday night was miserable, I was up and down all night long.  The stings on my head and neck are painful, but the ones on my hands are the worst.  I was taking Benadryl every four hours along with ibuprofen which did help, but I certainly could tell when the medications wore off.  
Random photos of the garden this past week

By Sunday morning, my hands had swollen even more than I thought possible; it's a wonder the skin didn't split.  They resembled surgical gloves blown up with air.  
Yikes!  That's a fat hand.
 I resembled a Cabbage Patch doll of yesteryear; my hands looked as if they were sewn on, and closing them was very painful.  Taking back to back doses of Benadryl meant I was more or less a zombie, so after making Sunday's noon meal, I told Carl I was going to take a nap.  I managed a fitful two hours before I gave up and went downstairs.   Carl was working on weeding while he waited for me to wake up.  He asked me if I wanted to go for a ride, and I agreed. I wrapped my hands in gauze soaked with Witch Hazel and off we went.  I brought the bottle along so I could re-wet the gauze at intervals. 

First, I asked Carl to drive the car out to the field to see where the hornet nest was.  We had no trouble finding it, there were swarms of yellow jackets hovering and flying.  I could see right where I'd stopped cutting the hay was smack dab centered on their nest.  With the high amount of wasp activity, I was very lucky to get away with only six stings.  Thank goodness the tractor has a good road gear.  Just sitting in the car with the windows rolled up I found I was still leery of being so close to the buggers, so Carl drove away.  

I hope I'm not developing Spheksophobia!  (Yes, there's a name for the fear of wasps.)  I don't want to become a Spheksophobe, mostly because that would mean I'd have to throw in the trowel with gardening and also because that's a weird title to wield for the rest of my life.  "I'm sorry, I cannot go outside.  I am a Spheksophobe."  

Ummmm........sure you are......all righty, then.

When I was a little girl, I remember being terrified to go outside one summer.  I think it was because I saw my father go berserk swatting at a bumblebee with his hat; I actually could see fear in his eyes and that unnerved me.  If my big, burly dad was afraid of a bee, then I'd best take notice, too!  The lure of the outdoors finally won me over, but I've always been leery of the stinging nasties.  
Danger lurks in the long grass

 For the future of my hay cutting, I'm not sure how I will protect myself.  This has never happened to me before.  I think I will be looking into some sort of Kevlar gloves and bee-keeper's hat/suit just to be safe, especially if I wait until so late in the season to mow.  They seem to be especially active and aggressive in the early fall, presumably because it is their last hurrah, too.  I'm sure they fill an ecological need somewhere, but I wouldn't be sad if every last one of them froze to death.  Good riddance.

More random wandering around.
Sunday night was another rough one; my hands were itchy and painful, my arms ached and woke me up several times.  I kept up with the Benadryl/ibuprofen regimen and hydrocortisone cream and finally woke up quite late, groggy and itchy.

I could stand to do some tidying up a bit too, sheesh! 
Thankfully, by this morning the swelling was down a quite a bit, but now the skin is loose on top of my hands.  As I got moving in the morning, though, the swelling set in again.  I spent most of Monday simply sitting and itching, but managed to make a bunch of phone calls pertaining to settling Mom's estate.  I guess I did accomplish something.

I wandered out to the mailbox in midafternoon and took a seat on the gazebo.  Here's something new:  we added two new benches to the gazebo and Mom's Memory Garden.  How she would have loved to paint these beauties:

I just know they would have been gorgeous if she could have turned her artistic talents on them.  

Hopefully in a few days, the swelling and itching will go down.  Most of what I've read said it will take a week.  

Now I have to get over the paranoia of any flying insect I see.  Gosh, I'm a Nervous Nellie!  I didn't even water my potted plants today; this won't do.  

There are lots of pots needing my attention.  (Why do I plant so many?  Carl always asks me that question, too.)  I guess it's good exercise, because it takes a lot of walking to and fro with watering cans to give them all a drink.

Ok, I will get my act together and water them all tomorrow morning, I promise.  The geraniums are amazing plants; most of them have been overwintered for years now and they always repay me with abundant blooms.  
'Americana Series' Pink with Red Splash, new this year.

All too soon, it will be time to haul the plants I want to save in the house.  

And you can bet, I will be checking them for any stinging varmints before I do! 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Once Bit, Twice Shy?

As I type this I'm sitting in my Lazy Boy with a bag of frozen peas lying on top of both of my hands.  The old saying, once bit, twice shy is very true for me.  
Just like my Pouting Angel, I'm not having a great night.
I'm trying to bring down the swelling of six yellow jacket stings.  Yes, six.   
This is my left hand, the right one is worse, with swelling almost to my elbow.  My head and neck are miserable, too.

This wasn't supposed to happen.

Today's plan was to finally get around to cutting the tall grass in the Back Eight and the pines.   Our temps were in the upper 80's today, which is rather unusual for September.  I'd let the field go all year without cutting it with the 'Bush Hog', an actual name for the implement seen in the picture above.  

We got a late start today, like usual around here.  Carl had to sharpen the two big blades for me which entails removing them from the machine, a job neither of us like very much as the bolts are very tight by necessity.  The job was made considerably easier by the impact driver/tool, though.  

I assisted in my usual go-fer manner;  finding tools, holding parts, doing what I'm told without wandering off (too far, anyway.)   Carl always jokes about how I get bored and walk away.  Not true!  Well, ok, a little true again today; there were some weeds near the garage which needed pulling and he didn't need me standing there, breathing down his neck, doing nothing while he worked.   I was there for the important stuff, like putting the nuts back on the bolts as he held them up from under the machine.

  I'd cut the field the last time in late August a year ago.  Letting a year go by wasn't the best idea, but we've been busy with everything else around here, so the field was low priority.  However, today (Saturday) was the day.

Carl removed a length of gnarly nylon baler twine wrapped up in the blades from last year's adventure.  Seems I'm always hitting something when I cut hay.  The poor tractor works hard enough without extra stuff stuck in the blades.
Blades and twine parting company.
After resharpening both blades and greasing the turning parts, I was on my way to the field.

It was around 4:30 PM before I got started.  The grass is tall and cuts hard and the seed heads get sucked into the radiator, so I have to keep an eye on the temperature gauge and get off every so often and clean the screen on the tractor.  
Tractor driving is a form of solitude.  I think and pray about a lot of things while going to and fro.  As with any equipment pulled behind a tractor, I spend more time looking backward than forward out of necessity to ward off any disasters which might happen if something came unhooked, plus checking on how well the grass is being cut.  Maybe I can go up a gear?  Maybe I should go down a gear?  It all depends on the quality of the cut.

Being over eighty degrees out and with the tractor working hard, the heat was climbing.  There was a breeze at times though, and it felt heavenly.    The pine trees have grown so much over the years that now the tractor barely fits between them even though they were planted sixteen feet on center.    

As I circled around the trees, I kept a close eye out for any hornet's nests, which sometimes are located out on the end of a branch.  I'm not fond of hornets in general, and messing with their house seems like a really bad idea.  There were no nests in sight, but I was glad to get back out into the open field nonetheless as it the work goes faster in a straight line.

Just as I was starting to cut in the open field,  I suddenly felt something burning on my neck.  A yellow jacket/wasp/hornet-ish-like thing was stuck down my shirt.  I started swatting at my neck and suddenly felt searing pain on the back of my head and one of my hands.
By then I'd lost control of the slow moving tractor and was whacking myself as hard as I could to kill them when two more landed on my hands and stung them, too.  At this point, I knew I was in big trouble.  Without slowing down the engine RPM's, I threw out the PTO for the mower, stepped in the clutch and slammed the tractor into high gear, flying across the field in a breakneck fashion.  Thankfully, I was able to out run the demons.

A bit of a panic ensued as I hightailed it for home; you know how you hear people can become allergic to bee stings at any point in their lives?   And that could be from only one sting, this was something else again as I counted at least six stings.  I don't own an Epi Pen.....I'd better drive faster to get home just in case.  

Carl came up to the tractor as I pulled in the driveway and I showed him my rapidly swelling hands.  

"Are you ok?"

"I guess so, I can still breathe, I'm assuming that's the most important thing," I said, wincing as I took  a bag of frozen peas, hash browns, cauliflower and strawberries out of the freezer.

"Keep ice on it and text me if you start to feel sick," Carl said.  "Do you want me to go finish the field?"

"You can if you want to, but stay away from the last place I was cutting."  

Carl said he could see I'd hit a ground nest as it was still swarming when he drove back out to the field.  He steered clear of the area, thankfully.  This is the first time I've ever hit a ground hornet nest and I hope it will be the last.  

When I made supper (guess what we had?)  Yep, peas, cauliflower, hash browns and strawberries.  We had to eat my First Aid kit since it was defrosted.

A quick internet search revealed fatal anaphylactic shock can occur in less than five minutes for those unfortunate souls who are truly allergic.  Wow.  That's a sobering thought.  I guess I'm lucky to get off with two swollen, awfully painful hands which hurt much worse than my scalp and neck does.  

I did dishes tonight and got my now-freakishly-fat hand caught in a wide mouth quart jar.  That was a shock.  Luckily I got it out with just a little work. 

I was glad I had also remembered to remove my wedding band, too, or my circulation would be cut off as my hand swells.  

 I was just telling Ann the other day how quickly our lives can change.  On Friday afternoon on my way back into the  house from the mailbox, I tripped walking up our back porch steps, slamming my full weight onto my right wrist as I hit the porch railings.  My wrist didn't break this time, thank goodness, but really?  What was I looking at?

 This all goes to show how fast things can happen, as in the old saying 'A New York Minute'.  One minute you're fine, the next minute you're doing battle with venom-filled insects.  

I've been stung before, which definitely makes me twice shy.  

Now where's my Benadryl?  It's gonna be a long night.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Random Mid-September Bloom

I spent all day Friday mowing lawn, here at our house and up at my Mom's.  This is the first week all summer without rain, but it is back in the forecast for later this weekend.  One thing 2017 will be remembered for is the amount of hours invested in cutting the grass.  It grew like a weed!  (Well, that's what our lawn is, a bunch of weeds, so duh.)  I can't recall ever having such a lush lawn in the past.

As I was running around with the lawn mower, I took a bunch of photos of the garden here and there.  Therefore, this is a post of randomness, starting with the Quarry at sunset.

The Pachyberm 'Bubblegum' supertunias and 'Indian Summer' rudbeckia (and assorted weeds)

 A few of the same view with differing light conditions.
With any luck, we probably only have a few weeks (if that) left before our first killing frost.  The flowers are a tangled jungle right now, but it's their last hurrah.
 Petunias, seed geraniums and dead horse chestnut leaves forming a mulch in front of the house.

Temps were in the 80's today with high humidity.  I'm still watering and fertilizing my urns and planters every day.
 'Red Velour' and 'Tidal Wave Silver' took a bit of a beating last week when we had soggy weather, but they have bounced back one more time along the driveway.
 This 'Americana' series geranium has never been out of bloom, I hope I can successfully overwinter it.  And tree grates---I spotted a Craigslist ad selling five sets of tree grates just like ours over the weekend and sent an email.  Too bad, I never heard back from the seller and the next day, the post was removed.  Putting the cart before the horse, we were already planning how we would add to our two existing ones.  Oh, well, maybe there'll be more eventually.  We picked these up at an antique store.

 Yes, another picture of the gazebo.

The trees (and hostas) are starting to turn already.

 Some of my seed coleus are finally starting to grow; they were slow this year.  The New Guinea impatiens are still going strong in the small planters.
 A real treat was this Easter lily? lookalike? which bloomed for the first time today, in September, of all things. A friend from South Carolina gave me the seed.  The lily grew to over six feet tall.  It will be interesting to see if it will overwinter here.

 What a perfect way (and lily!) to end the summer growing season.
Saturday's chore will be cutting the Back Eight with my trusty friend:
My Trusty Friend 574

Have a seat....I'm longwinded
Somebody weed that driveway, would you??
Next up: Another strange new garden addition for 2017