A millennial from New York with an expensive degree from a renowned university sustainability program once thought she’d like to work on the Resilience Project. We invite all such applicants to a weekend of orientation and exploration. To see if they really are a good fit for Meadowcreek.
One part of the introduction is a walk in the woods to see some of the mushroom trees, trails, creeks and wildlife. She’d never before climbed through a barb wire fence, but she made it. After dark, she found that she had two ticks latched onto her belly even after washing with hot water and soap. So we excised them. She’d never had those blood suckers before. She was a trooper and moved onto the second phase of Meadowcreek.
The trouble was that it was May. If she’d come in October, there would not have been ticks. Or chiggers. Even spiders seem to have mainly headed for winter accommodations. I walked in the woods yesterday and didn’t encounter one spider. No need to wave a stick before me to knock them down.
Now I’m not saying its impossible to get chiggers and ticks in the Ozarks after October 1, but it is durn hard.
Some people attract chiggers, ticks, mosquitoes and all sorts of wild evil. Others, like me, don’t. If I’m outside with almost anyone else, they will get bit before I do. I must just smell bad to those beasties.
Sweet smelling people may get them worse. One really sweet young lady got deer ticks really bad while she was here. Once she escorted a crew up to Bee Bluff and they started attacking her when she was all the way on top. She rushed back down, all the way to the Creek to get them off. Her fiance and I were on the road when she rushed by with a look of horror on her face (and a little relief since she was near the water).
She was one of our best students. Made a lot of progress. I think she really understands resilience and why it is so much more useful than sustainability. She also contributed many great ideas and practical examples to our book. Finally, she revived the Meadowcreek mushroom activities.
I think she will soon deserve to have the M.Rs. degree conferred on her. Master of Resilience Systems.
But she was susceptible to chiggers, ticks, and mosquitos. I have never been bitten by a mosquito at Meadowcreek. Maybe because my skin has been toughened up by twenty years of living in the Delta. I’ve also never gotten a malaria shot in all my travels in Africa, Asia and the Amazon.
Most aren’t so lucky. My nephew in Burkina Faso is sufferring after-effects of malaria right now. Aren’t you glad we don’t have it in the US? You know why we don’t? DDT. But that’s another story and doesn’t really fit our ecologically sensitive audience here.
Ticks were the bane of this lM.Rs. degree candidate though. Chiggers didn’t bother her nearly as much, though they are the worst, as far as I am concerned. However, a hot soapy bath or shower at the end of the day, followed by clean clothes will keep you from having chigger itch after your stay at Meadowcreek.
And if you come from now through March, you won’t get any anyway. They have all gone to the ground for the winter. They winter as adults either near or slightly below the surface of the soil. Maybe you could get bit in during our six chigger-free months if you slept in the leaves in the woods and happened to warm up a few chiggers who were hibernating there.
Chiggers do not burrow under your skin and lay eggs as the old wives say. So you can’t kill them with nail polish. Just get them off with hot soapy water. And if you do get a bite, treat it with calamine lotion or any of Aliza’s jewelweed salve.
When a chigger feeds, it injects enzymes into your skin that causes destruction of the tissue. Then it feeds upon the dead tissue. Your skin reacts by hardening the cells around the chigger’s saliva path into a tubular structure called a stylostome. It’s your body’s reaction to the stylostome that causes the symptoms. So your body’s overreaction to the chigger enzymes is the problem. Calamine lotion somehow reduces your need to respond to the stylostome.
Red bugs are what some Southerners call them. Chiggers are a juvenile mite, kinda like the mites you have in your eyebrows, but a bit bigger. Chiggers require a high level of humidity for survival so they are typically found on plants that are relatively close to the surface of the ground. They have six legs, are red in color, and are less than 1/150th of an inch in length barely visible to the naked eye.
You will probably not notice right away when a chigger bites you. Sometimes the itching doesn’t start until two days after the bite. The area of the bite will be reddened and raised just a bit. Itching can last several days and sores (from infection from scratching) can last for up to two weeks. So take your hot soapy shower after you get finished messing around in the woods or fields from May to September. And slap on some calamine lotion if your shower misses one or two.
Actually, I say we have six chigger-free months, but April is usually fine too. I just didn’t want you to come here in April, think you don’t have to shower the whole time you are here and expect to not get bitten.
If you want an M.Rs. degree, though, you have to spend more than a year at Meadowcreek. So you will encounter chiggers, ticks and spiders. Guaaair-oohhnn–teeeed.