Monday, September 29, 2014

Naturally Treating Sumac Part 2

If you decide that trying to treat your case of poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac naturally is the route for you, there are some things to keep in mind.

First, this is not a "quick" remedy. Depending on the severity of your outbreak, it could take a few weeks. The key is to catch it early and make changes to limit the spread of the rash. I don't know if I would recommend trying this method with young children. They may not be able to handle the discomfort for the duration. This method also requires a lot of work. You have to be consistent and remain diligent in your efforts to succeed.

The first thing you will have to do is cut your nails. If you have acrylic nails, I recommend having them removed. The reason is because the oils from the plant get under your nails and if you touch another part of your body, then you will risk spreading the rash.

You will also want to wash any gardening tools that have come in contact with the poison. The oils from sumac can stay on your gardening tools for YEARS so get some soap and water and wash them up.

You will be doing lots of laundry. Lots and lots of laundry. In my house everyone hangs their towels over the shower rod to dry. So we all tend to use each other's towels. During this time you want to make sure that this does not happen. Even if you pat yourself dry, you risk breaking open any blisters that may form and that can also lead to spreading the rash not only to other members of the family but to other parts of your body.

You will also want to change the sheets more often. While I did not change mine everyday, I was close. You scratch in your sleep and this can lead to you guessed it spreading of the rash.

I know this sounds like a lot to do and it would be much easier to just bite the bullet and go to the doctor. But, if you really are not looking forward to taking a day off work to spend in the doctor's office, then this may be an alternative for you.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Naturally Treating Sumac Part 1

Almost all of us have come in contact with Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, or Poison Sumac at some point in our lives. While most people suffer some sort of reaction to any of these plants, I have a particular serious reaction to Sumac. 

I have had 2 very serious cases of sumac out breaks. The first time I encountered sumac, I was not aware that I was even handling the vine. I cannot stress the importance of arming yourself with this knowledge. I chose to go visit my family doctor for treatment. She prescribed prednisone in a zee pack for me. I am not a big fan of steroids for a variety of reasons but, I was desperate. This time when I discovered that I had once again contracted sumac, I decided on a more homeopathic route.

While I have stayed away from sumac, it does grow in my yard and since I have pets, the oil from the plant can get on the fur and be transferred in that manner. So be aware of the different ways that you can come in contact with these plants.

I have tried many methods to rid myself of this bothersome malady. I have listed some of them below and the results so that you may decide for yourself if this is a route for you. Please keep in mind that this is not a method that will rid you of this in a week or less. You have to be diligent and consistent to be rid of the rash.

1. Technu and Ivarest.  These are over the counter soaps, foams and creams that can help ease the discomfort. In order for them to work properly, it is best if you use them as soon as possible after coming in contact with the plant in question. I found that the Ivarest medicated anti itch cream helped a great deal. I was able to use the Technu on some places after the rash appeared and it dried up those places. But, with the Technu I did not rinse it off. I just left it on the areas and I think that went a long way towards clearing up the areas.

2. Epsom salt and vinegar baths. These methods also offered some relief. I did not use this method much but it does work. But, you will smell like an Easter egg if you opt for the vinegar baths.

3. Aloe Vera Gel. This is readily available at any local grocer if you  do not have a lot of Aloe Vera plants. I found that this offered as much relief as the Ivarest medicated cream. I kept this in the fridge because it felt better when applied cold. One advantage over the medicated cream is that it is clear so you can apply it to areas that are not covered by clothing.
4. Hot/Cool Showers. I found that the hot showers worked much better for me than the cool showers. You have to stay in the shower for a while but you will feel relief when you exit. With the hot showers, you want to be in water that is VERY hot, almost intolerable hot. You will want to stay in the shower for at least 15 minutes with either method that you choose. With either one, you should be prepared to itch at first. But, the longer that you are able to stay under the water, the more relief you will have when you exit the shower. The advantage to the hot shower is that when you exit, you can visibly see all the areas that have been exposed since they will be quite red from the hot water. 

Please note that these methods are not going to work over night. There are also several things that I have done around the house during this time that has helped with my recovery. I will share those with you in my next post. It has taken me several weeks to overcome this, but I was able to do it with no steroids and that is not a bad thing!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Pick Your Own

Living in the south will definitely spoil you if you love fresh produce. There are Farmer's Markets, roadside stands and Pick Your Own Farms everywhere. I like to visit all of these as often as possible. The key to getting the best looking and the "pick of the litter" if you will, is to get there early. I do mean EARLY. Usually in my area by about 9 or 10 in the morning, everything has been handled and picked over.

There are several "pick your own" farms around me that offer everything from tomatoes to nectarines depending on the time of year. If you are strictly organic, you definitely want to ask questions before you grab your buckets and go off to grab those strawberries. If you aren't able to pick your produce yourself, these farms usually sell produce they have picked themselves although the price is a little higher.

Pick your own farms are a great way to supplement your freezer for the winter especially if you are unable to have a garden of your own. It is also a great learning experience for the kids so don't hesitate to take them along! You could also go in "halves" with a friend or family member so that you both can share in the fun of picking your own food.

Below are some tips to keep in mind before visiting a pick your own farm. While these may not apply to all, they are general things that you could always ask about when you call the farm before visiting.

1. Dress appropriately. If you are going to be cutting okra, remember these are "sticky" plants. The leaves can irritate your skin so wear a light weight long sleeve shirt and maybe some light weight warm ups over your shorts. Remember to bring some gloves also.

2. Bring your own buckets. If you call ahead, you can ask how much it costs per bushel, half bushel, etc. While most of us don't have bushel baskets lying around, you can use just about any type of bucket. The farmer will usually have bushel baskets that he will move your produce into to give you the correct price. If you do not have access to a bucket, ask them if they have some you can use. Make sure you ask if there is an additional cost involved.

3. Bring your own tools. These would include gloves, a good knife that you can use to cut stems or a pair of snippers of some sort. Carry something to sit on. An extra 5 gallon bucket, a small stool or anything else that does not require a lot of room. Make sure you also wear a hat and bring that sunscreen!

4. Remember that you will be picking with other people. The rows are close together so plan on having just enough room to move between the rows. The good thing about this is that you can work 2 rows at the same time.

While this isn't a complete list, it gives you an idea of what it is like to pick your own produce at a larger garden than your backyard. The link above is a great place to start your search for a pick your own farm in your area. So grab the kids and those buckets and get to picking!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

No Diggity My Experiences With A No Dig Garden

Since I don't live in a Martha Stewart Compound, I am somewhat limited as to what I can grow. I have tried various plants of various varieties. I have tried a few methods that are more conducive to the way of life I am trying to achieve. Since I am not a horticulturist nor a soil engineer, my methods have all been the trial and error kind. I am hoping that you can learn from me and I can learn from you.

The last house I lived in had absolutely no trees in the backyard! I truly had a blank canvas to work with. I am a big fan of the "no dig" method of gardening for a couple reasons. The first being I don't have to call all the utility companies and wait for them to come out and mark the spots of all the various lines that run from the house. I also do not own all the equipment required for traditional gardening.

This method is time consuming but I do like the idea of being able plant without all that preparation beforehand. While there are many ways to use the no dig method, I usually take the easiest way so I can get in the dirt sooner. The first time I used this method I took a large tarp and covered the ground that I had chosen for my garden. Like most people, I decided in the summer that I should have planted a garden.This actually worked because I was able to get the ground prepped all winter. You can also just cover the ground with newspapers or cardboard and add mulch or compost or both to get the desired depth. I chose to kill the grass with the tarp because I have used newspapers and the like in my flower beds and I find that this is a sufficient method for smaller areas. Newspapers take about 18 months to decompose so you may have to add more newspapers the following year to keep weeds under control. If you have a compost bin, you can use your own compost. Most nurseries will sell you compost so check around and make sure that you are getting compost and not mulch. The only thing I added to the soil was turkey manure.

My first experience was not a Martha Stewart moment. I knew nothing about companion planting or watering or even if I was planting things at the right time of the year. I know a lot of this sounds pretty dim witted but, I used my local garden center and as you know, they usually put everything out in the spring whether it is the proper time or not. So needless to say, it was hit or miss. I did manage to get tomatoes, hot peppers and bell peppers. Not to shabby for my first time!

I have since moved in to an older subdivision that has more mature trees in the yard. There are also animal issues such as birds, squirrels, cats and the like. I tried my hand at raised gardening this year and the jury is still out on whether I will use this method again or not. I do have some ideas that I am going to try next year but that is for another post.

Happy planting and thanks for stopping by!