Monday, September 2, 2013

Pick a Peck of Poison Ivy


I start with the pre-exposure stuff, spreading it on my forearms and calves. I think about putting some on my face and neck - but I don't like having stuff on my face or neck, so I don't put any there. But it is designed to stop the poison ivy sap from getting to the skin. Long pants are next, and a long-sleeved t-shirt. No belt, nothing in any pockets. When I am done, the clothes will get stripped off in the laundry room and put straight into the washing machine. I set out two special soap formulas in the bathroom, ready for the washup after.

I continue gathering what I will use. The heavy-duty rubber gloves, the latex gloves to use as a glove liner, a second long-sleeved t-shirt to wear as a top layer, a cloth to tie around my head and cover my scalp, and to absorb the sweat. As I put my shoes on, I tuck my pants into the tops of the socks.

First, we have to do a small digression: the fox hunt for the morning. I'll post a bit about this in a few days. I take the dogs out to check the area around our house to make sure there is no fox close by. The cats want to go outside, and we don't trust the fox who was spotted recently.

The day is getting warm now. Back at the house, I put on the 2nd shirt. I make sure I've drunk some extra water, as I won't be able to do so as long as I work. On with the first gloves, and the 2nd pair. I tie on my headcloth, and I am ready to start:

picking poison ivy.

My European friends probably don't know what this is, but my American friends will know - this is nasty stuff. Not the plant itself, as poison ivy is simply an averagely aggressive vine, and rather pretty to look at. Nope, not the plant. It is the rash you get from touching it that is the pain in the ass. The vine releases plant oils when touched, and those cause severe rashes. Sensitivity varies between individuals, but the more you are exposed to it, the MORE sensitive you become. I get regular cases, usually mild, just from the animals strolling through the borders and hedges where the ivy thrives, and then coming home for me to pick up or pet. A couple of weeks ago I had a patch on my face, just in time to go down to D.C for a big trade show. Yucka.

Poison ivy loves the environment around here, and this has been a bumper year. I didn't get out early with the Roundup, so I have to pick it out of the flowerbeds and yard borders. Even when I go after it with the Roundup, I usually dress up something like today, although perhaps not quite so prepared. But even prepared, I may get some rash. We won't know for 3 days if I have managed to avoid it or not. It can take up to 3 days to start showing.

But I get a full bushel of ivy plants by the time I am done. It takes me over an hour, more like two. I am hot and sweaty before I am done. I have to avoid wiping the sweat off my face so I don't spread any of the plant sap on my face or get it in my scalp. I have to carefully pull up the vines by the roots, to get as much as possible so it does not just grow back when I am done.

I feel good when I am done, as I have a good haul of vines in the basket, and that means they aren't in the yard. It was hard work, but worth it. I did this the first year we were in this house, and I had kept it pretty clean with a little maintenance since, but for some reason, the ivy came back strong this year.

I pull off the heavy rubber gloves, and hang them on a fence. I set my digging tool next to them, and turn the sprinkler on them. (For those of you who don't know poison ivy, water dissolves the oil that causes the rash, but you have to wash for a good while. The latex gloves go in the garbage, and I strip down in the laundry room. The clothes go in the wash, and I head to the shower. The first wash is an application designed for poison ivy. It goes on without water, full strength, to help dissolve the oils. On top of that I use a paint-cleaning soap, which is also good at cutting oily stuff on skin. Then the shower. I spend a full twenty minutes in the shower, and hope that I've done enough to cut whatever plant oils got through all my protection! I've done this before, and still ended up with a rash! But, this year I was more thorough than usual, so we will see.

But I tell ya, there's a happy moment for the day! Picking a peck of poison ivy! Done!

Mon Sep-02-2013. Update. The preventitive measures were almost completely successful. I got a spot of blisters and rash in a few places, but in all cases quite small - like a small streak of blisters on my scalp, and a pencil eraser size blister on my ankle. So, no misery, (sigh of relief)!

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