Thursday, October 1, 2009
Revenge of the chigger king & the new homestead
I spent a few days with my family in Galveston this summer. My niece and I were at the beach together at sunset and she made this beautiful drawing for me.
My last post was brought to the attention of the Chigger King. He was very displeased by such disregard - claiming that with casual effort, I could thwart his teaming army. Looking for property hours and hours from home didn't lend itself to a shower within 4 hours of being outside. So I was attacked over and over, it was bad. When out picking herbs here at the house I really got sick of showering after coming in, so many days I'd convince myself that it wasn't necessary. I was wrong. I did find that a dry rag or bandanna for a dry scrub helped a lot. Then I found out about Sulfur Powder.
Combining the dry skin scrub when not near a shower (or just not wanting to shower) along with Sulfur powder was the magic key. Sulfur powder, or Flowers of Sulfur or Elemental Sulfur, is an old time solution to not only chigger problems but also for things like lice, ticks, and mites. Some old timers used to burn a pan of it when moving into a new house to clear out the bugs and would sprinkle sulfur powder around the base of the house. Sort like a bug bomb I'd guess. Some used to take a spoon of it mixed with molasses to "clean out what ails ya", though I'm not sure I'd go that far. Some people even ate dried fruit with Sulfur Powder on it for keeping ticks off. I can't find anything bad about Sulfur powder yet and it is a natural product. The books I've checked say to not use kitchen utensils for mixing and to wash your hands after use, so I don't think I'll be ingesting any soon.
In a mixing bowl, combine sulfur powder and talcum powder, about 1/2 and 1/2. Scoop this into an old sock. I found an old flour scoop worked well for this. Then pat your feet, socks, legs, cuffs, boots, waist line etc with the powder as a great chigger and tick repellent. I keep the sock in a zip lock back on the porch and usually pat my feet and lower legs down before I go out. Without the talcum powder, the "chunky" sulfur powder will not go through the sock fibers. It also doesn't work with pantyhose, tried it. When we were looking for property, we had to walk through chest high fallow fields and thick woods in the heat of the summer. Using the Sulfur Powder reduced my average bites per field trip from 20-40 down to 1 (and sometimes zero).
Pharmacies used to carry Sulfur Powder for treating acne and other skin problems, but I found it difficult to locate one that didn't say "We used to carry it, but we don't anymore." I found the local feed store carried it in 50lb bags for around $25.
Since we grow organically, the 50 pounds of the powder will come in handy. Not only for pest control, but to lower the Ph of the soil if it needs it. In "Growing Edge" by Tom Alexander, Amy Knutson, Matt Harrington; they recommend Sulfur Powder as an effective preventative fungicide for dipping corms and bulbs before storage. Here are some sites that show additional uses for sulfur powder:
If you have used sulfur powder, let me know!
We finally bought land in Missouri. It took 9 months of looking and driving to pick one. The photo is the small bottom pasture with a little cleared. Ultimately we found the best deals, and the best land, was advertised as big acreage such as 200-300 acres. When we called, many of them said they would break out a 20-30 acre parcel for us and this is how we found the property that was ultimately purchased. There is a year round creek, a small bottom land pasture with great looking soil, a small south facing hill that we'll build on top of and a bigger pasture on top of the small hill. There is a big wooded hill that provides a nice buffer between us and the road and it's one property away from a National Forest. I've spotted some herbs there already, but look forward to really getting out there and looking for more.
The land closed on Tuesday and we started to work yesterday clearing the massive debris pile left behind years ago by the prior owner. We bought an old RV to live in while we built in NY and thankfully the old gal made it to Missouri. It broke down on the move here and is being stored about 30 minutes from the property, boy is that handy. So with a little effort, it'll make it to the property next week and we can avoid the 2 1/2 hour commute from the rent house. We'll probably stay out there a few days a week till it gets too cold to work.
The first project is going to be a root cellar so we'll have somewhere safe in case of a weather event and then the outdoor kitchen. We cleared a spot for each already. The weather is great for this kind of work and we're so happy to get going after such a long delay.
This summer hasn't been a waste though. The property at the rent house has provided medicinal herbs in abundance and I've been making salves, herbal oils, elixirs and extracts. When I first started making salve by eyeballing it, it was nice and soft. Then I started using recipes, like the one I posted last time (6 parts oil to 1 part wax) and haven't been very happy with that lately. The last batch of Plantain salve that I made I ended up adding 10 additional ounces of oil to the already 16 ounces and it still wasn't as nice and soft as those first few batches. When you are making salve, test it by putting some on a spoon and setting that on a plate in the freezer for a few minutes. Then if it's too stiff, just add more oil. If it's too soft, add more wax (though that has never happened, it can't be too soft for me).
My mother-in-law Judy has moved in and it's been wonderful. Sometimes we'd get back so late at night after looking at land all day. The animals were all taken care of and she usually had something ready for us to eat. If any dirty dishes were left in the rush to get out the door for the long road trip, more often than not, they'd be washed. We're all sharing expenses and labor. Our animals are all getting along after a bit of a bumpy start and Rufus the pig has decided it's OK for her to brush him. He does take a while to warm up to someone.
Join me at the Traditions in Western Herbalism conference September 17-19, 2010.