Sunday, July 14, 2013

Taming the Wild by Alison Hart

No, not as in taming a horse. My horses are hot, contented and too lazy to go any faster than a trot when they hear the feed tub being opened. (See photo below of my fat horses trying to canter up a hill.  They pretend they're wild mustangs except their fly masks give them away as pampered pasture ornaments) The title "Taming the Wild" doesn't refer to  a new book I'm working on either. Instead it refers to something more lowly -- summer outdoor chores, which seem to get out-of-hand about now. Perhaps it's the heat that slows me down in July and makes the chores seem never-ending. I heard tell that Southern Belles wore no underwear under their hoop skirts so the breeze could keep them cool during the sultry days.  Or perhaps it's that I'm plumb worn out battling 'the wild.'

Pasture (not horses) that will soon be out-of-control
It's fun to compare summer weather and chores with other parts of the United States. I know the Midwest is still in drought mode. I am not sure what's going on in the West Coast. Here in Virginia we have had rain and humidity for weeks, so the vegetation is similar to the Amazon. Grass needs constant mowing. My husband and I share this job and we have an almost new John Deere, so the lawn is no problem. The pastures, however, quickly get out of hand. Horses poop in a few spots and eat down to the ground in others, so you have highs and lows. We use the neighbor's fields as well, and it's harder to get to them so weeds develop.  Poison ivy and brambles are always lurking and major invasive pests, the Tree of Heaven and Russian Olive, are continual threats.

The woods ready to take over as soon as we turn our backs
Summer days I am constantly reminded that we humans are simply guests on Earth. A week without mowing, weed eating and trimming hedges and the vegetation has crept to our back porch and taken over the gardens. A week without my and the dogs' vigilance and the critters have moved in. Squirrels steal the peaches, Japanese beetles decimate the roses, stink bugs kill the tomatoes and moles dig complex tunnels in the lawn. So far this year the neighbors have had to trap four separate raccoons that keep getting through the cat door and creating havoc in their laundry room.  The flies have been horrendous for the horses and no spray or mask seems to stop them. And though I love the deer, the ticks they attract have plagued all of us.

It's a balancing act here in Virginia--leaving enough 'wild' while carving out gardens, pasture, and lawn. And this time of the year, the chores that go with acreage can get downright ornery!  How are you at taming the wild in your own backyard?  Any great fly remedies? Please share!


Laura Crum said...

Alison--I can very much relate, though my problems are slightly different. Here on the California coast we get very little summer rain, so everything dries out. The vegetation does not try to take over during the summer for this reason. But every plant you wish to keep alive (except the natives) must be watered. We also have gophers here, and I believe you do not. Trust me, nothing is more destructive to a garden than gophers. We do have raccoons (in our garbage, cat food...etc) and hawks, coyotes and bobcats who try to eat our chickens (and often succeed). And we have LOTS of flies. I find that fly traps are very successful (if you hang them in the right places), and the chickens also help keep the fly population down. The horses must have fly spray applied every few days, however, or they suffer. We also are plagued by yellow jackets (ground wasps), which are a true nuisance--and a danger to horses who step in a nest. We use traps for these, too, and eliminate the nests by fair means or foul when we find them. So, anywhere you live, if you live in the country, its always something.

Alison said...

OMG Laura! You are also battling nature. We don't have gophers, but groundhogs. Where do you put the fly traps? My experience has been they attract more flies than they kill. And which spray works best for you? I am not happy with most I have tried--natural or store bought. And Relish hates the sprayer so I have to wipe it on.

Laura Crum said...

Well, if you've got plenty of flies I think the traps help. You need to hang them in the sunshine, somewhere where you don't mind the flies collecting. (Not places where you want to spend time...the traps also stink.) I hang them in the chicken coop and by the trash bins...also at the far end of the veggie garden. I DO notice a reduction in the amount of pesky flies.

I use a store bought spray...comes in a dark red bottle--can't remember the name. It works. Supposed to work for a week, but that's totally untrue. It does work for 24 hours. My Sunny used to hate being sprayed, but I ignored his "hating" and now he doesn't really care. He just got used to it. I do wipe it on their faces, though. I will look at my spray and tell you its name. I'm sure its bad for one's health...but I am tired of fly sprays that don't work.

Laura Crum said...

Its Farnam "Bite Free." I use it only when the horses look unhappy due to flies or the flies are bugging their eyes and irritating them. I don't use it any more than I have to--I'm sure its not so healthy for either me or the horses. But it is effective.

Alison said...

I'll see if the co-op has it. I use the fly masks which are terrific for their faces. Have you tried them?

Laura Crum said...

Alison--I don't like fly masks. I use them when I have to, but around here they get little bits of burrs stuck in them, and the horses don't seem to like them and tear them off when they can. But mostly its irrational--I hate the way horses look in them. I don't like either fly masks or fly sheets--though I will use them if they are truly needed. But our climate is mostly cool in the summer (its been in the 60's all week) and the horses don't need that sort of protection. A little fly spray will do the job. I will admit that when I pastured my horses in a warmer place, I did use the masks (they were a necessity there). So I understand that sometimes they are just the thing.