It’s a Jungle Out There

Reader Contribution by Lois Hoffman
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I love summer. But then, I love the other seasons too. I hate to see the present one go, but I am always anxious to see the next one come. The only problem is all the other critters are happy to see summer too.

It seems like it takes forever for it to get warm in the spring. Then there is that perfect evening when the air is warm, the sunset is beautiful, the scents of the first spring flowers waft through the air and the world is right. Then it hits, the first mosquito attacks.

So begins the war between them and us. It’s pretty sad when you wait all winter to break out the shorts and tank tops only to have to forego them or risk being dinner for mosquitoes.

Skunks like this time of year too. I have been pretty lucky. A couple have camped out in my lean-to barn the past couple years but they seem to leave me alone. I usually throw my garbage out in the field and they are happy to pick through it.

We have reached a mutual understanding on this subject. They don’t venture toward the house as long as I keep throwing scraps out there. This works for me.

Along about June or July it becomes an all-out war between us humans and God’s other creatures. I really do not mind co-existing with them as long as they mind their manners. After all, I try to be considerate of them.

I don’t mess with their habitat, mess with their food supply or with raising their young… as long as they respect me. The trouble is that they do not seem to reciprocate.

The deer and I are still in a hot debate over whose garden it is. Last year they thought it was appropriate for them to help themselves to dessert in the form of lettuce, carrot tops, the green leaves of my squash and especially my hostas as they passed through the yard to eat the neighbor’s soybeans out of the field.

This tends to get my dander up. After all, it is my seed and my hard work that went into the garden and I fully intend to reap the benefits. This is war.

I have installed a motion light, put hot pepper flakes on the plants and sprayed Deer-out around the perimeter. It deters them until they figure out the plan. That’s OK, I have a few other tricks up my sleeve. I will prevail.

Photo by Getty Images/mashabuba.

I have the same trouble with rabbits. Now, I really love to watch them munching on the green grass and there is always plenty of it for them to have a meal. After a while they get a little more adventurous and start checking out the garden too. Is nothing sacred anymore?

Even ants think they can invade our world. Hummingbirds bother no one and provide a colorful show when they come to eat at the flowers and feeders.

Somehow though, ants think the sweet nectar was put out for them as they scale the posts and fill the feeders. It is a little extra work but spraying the wires leading to the feeders with non-stick cooking spray seems to help for a few days. We will battle this all summer.

I often wonder how creatures so small can make life so miserable. It never fails that when it is time to pick wild raspberries that I have to wage war on chiggers.

Long pants with cuffs tucked into boots should be all I need to get through the grass to the berries. That is only wishful thinking because they always find a way to get through and for something so tiny, they sure can pack a punch of powerful itching.

I like to pick early in the morning and later in the evening when it is cool. So, that means when I get in mid-morning it is strip down and take a shower and the same thing in the evening. During berry season I am probably the cleanest person around. It is a lot of trouble but the berries are so worth it!

It is not only the fauna that can make summer miserable, but some of the flora packs even a worse punch. I have a hill out by the barn where I have tried to get various ground cover started.

Grass, thistles and stinging nettle seemed to find every square inch of bare ground. So, I braved the consequences and set out to clear it out. The stinging nettle got the first lick in. It sneaked up on me… fair enough.

The poison ivy and poison oak are a different story though. I knew it was there. I knew where it was and I stayed my distance. Well, it won again and I ended up with a case of it over my entire body as a reminder that it outsmarted me.

I guess this year it meant business because it seemed to be a hardier strain. It was harder to get over and even made me feel nauseous.

It is like the poison plant is making a firm statement that it has moved in for good. I think not. I don’t like to use chemicals at all but this may be the one exception.

In all the books you read and in all the movies, summer is portrayed as a lazy and magical time of year to kick back and relax while all the flowers and crops bask in the sun. Yes, the world in summer is an idyllic place in theory but not in reality.

I like this picture that everyone sees through rose-colored glasses. I intend to live it and I will prevail over the critters.

To their credit, these pests make me enjoy summer even more because it keeps it interesting. Yes, we humans will prevail and take back our summer!

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