June 2014
The Herb Farm

Don’t Touch It!

 
“What am I?” Last month’s WAI was an aphid on the head of a black kingsnake.  

When the weather warms up in Alabama, you can count on several things. Let us take a look at these things by category and we’ll keep the categories narrow.

Here’s the good, the bad and the ugly of the warmer season of Alabama.

On the good side, there are so many shades of greens, yellows, blues, reds and every color in between that only high-definition cameras can capture them as well as the human eye.

The weather in the springtime is especially nice because you can open the windows and air out the house. Put a fan in the window and let the ventilation begin! It lets the stale stench of winter go right out. When I was younger, we didn’t have central heating and air conditioning. We stayed outside all day and when the time came for supper, we went inside and ate. Then we went out onto the front porch and drank tea in our rocking chairs until the sun went down or laid on a quilt in the front lawn and watched for meteors and satellites. All this we did while waiting on the house to cool down before bedtime. Ah, yes. Dancing with the stars meant so much more than watching somebody else do something on a television.

Yes. I have central heating and air conditioning, and I use it when it is necessary. Let’s see, now. So far this year I have had two electricity bills under $100 and I expect I’ll have at least one more before the power company goes up on their seasonal usage rates.

 
  Poison ivy seedling. This size is usually what affects me the most. They are often overlooked and accidentally touched.

On the bad side: Poison ivy is an interesting-looking vine with all its spring blooms and hairy wood and such. But it gives me fits! As you probably know, all parts of the plants are poisonous and I am highly allergic to it. Each spring I go on a killing spree on the property and try to eradicate all of the poisonous plants. Still, invariably, there will always be that seedling that escaped my eyes and brushes against my overalls without my knowledge.

I end up with an itchy arm for a few days and it’s miserable.

I got an email from a reader named Linda a few weeks ago. She asked about using jewelweed as a cure for the inflammation caused by poison ivy. I explained to her that I do not have personal experience with that, but I heard the native variety has been used as a preventative. Still, I have no personal experience with that.

What I do use for most any bite, sting, burn and poisonous plant reaction is pure raw local honey. It helps the healing process with its anti-microbial properties.

More bad: Imported fire ants were introduced into the United States at the Port of Mobile from South America. This occurred in 1918 and again between 1933 and 1941.

Here on the Herb Farm, imported fire ants are a medium risk problem. We control them naturally by letting Mother Nature do the work for us. Decapitating flies, native ants, wasps and other predatory insects keep the infestations to a minimum. Research has revealed in some studies that chemical controls only temporarily mask the problem and, like any of natures’ wonders, keep the species alive by becoming immune to, or escaping, the effects.

Still, their bites hurt and are potentially dangerous to people and other animals.

Mosquitoes! Bad? Yes. Annoying? Yes. Disease carrying? Yes. Controls? Remove their breeding sources (standing water). Realistic? Not really, especially if you live in an older subdivision or on a farm with natural rain pools.

40% DEET is my best friend this time of year. Unnatural control? Yes. Do I recommend it for you? No. Ask your doctor first and research the dangers of wearing this chemical before using it.

Personally, DEET is the only perfume I wear.

Ticks are exceptionally bad this year and I thought our insect population was supposed to be reduced when we have a cold, cold winter like the one we just came out of. Not so. Even though I wear DEET, I brush off at least one or two small ticks each day. I think the reason I only find them crawling on me and not attached is because of the insect repellant.

Visiting friends and traveling salesmen, however, sometimes aren’t quite as lucky. If they have that tasty blood type as I and they aren’t wearing this farmer’s perfume, they might just get home and find a sucker attached to their skin.

DEET works well repelling chiggers, too. I haven’t had one of those on me in more than 20 years.

Snakes, on the other hand, are the bitter-sweet part of the season. I cannot classify them in the "bad" category of the season. They are all beneficial creatures in nature and certainly here at the farm. I must admit I had much rather see a black kingsnake swallowing a Southern copperhead than a cottonmouth swallowing a bullfrog. Nevertheless, it happens and we just have to take precautions. Keep the natural areas of the property groomed. Walk around the ponds and water features at night with a flashlight. Be careful!

Another bad is having to prune citrus trees and other thorny plants. Bougainvillea is one of the worst because I grow several cultivars and overwinter them in the greenhouse. They get long and leggy, and need pruning before the heat sets in. They then set buds and bush out. I end up with holes in my arms and other places.

The "ugly" part of the season is best described as being just plain old annoying stuff that you don’t count on and wish it would go away.

One thing that really gets me going is sitting on the porch with a visitor, enjoying a glass of lemonade or iced tea and rocking in the most comfortable rocking chairs known to man and have to listen to them whine, "It’s so hot." It could be a nice comfortable 85 degree day with a mild five mile an hour breeze keeping me cool as a cucumber and they will be sweating like a bank robber at the policemen’s ball, complaining all the while … "Dang, it’s hot."

It just makes me want to tell them to just pack up and get out of my state!

Solution for that problem? Move to Indiana! My state is too crowded for the likes of them. Or, they could just quit laying in that air conditioning and learn what evaporative cooling is all about.

Okay. I promised two recipes for June, so here goes.

I was experimenting with potato salad last week and stumbled on this, quite by accident. Nonetheless, I liked it so much that I made more and taste tested it with some supper guests last Tuesday night and they liked it, too. They asked for the recipe and this is what I gave them. It’s a "to taste"-type concoction, so use your own judgment with the salts and spices.

Potato Salad

About 2 pounds red or gold potatoes (use potatoes with a smooth texture – not Idaho or Russets)

½ cup celery, remove vein strings and dice to about ¼"

¼ cup red onion, finely diced

¾ cup sour cream

¼ cup mayonnaise

2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 teaspoons Lawry’s seasoned salt

¼ Tablespoon fresh-ground black pepper

1 teaspoon sea salt

Clean potatoes with skins on using a Scotchbrite pad or scrub brush, then cook in boiling water until fork tender. Cut potatoes into about 1" pieces and place into large mixing bowl.

Mix other ingredients together in a separate bowl until completely combined. Add dressing mixture to the potatoes and mix well. Chill, then serve.

Recipe # 2

¼ pound of bacon, cooked to crispy-done texture and crushed

1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

¼ cup chives, finely chopped

Make recipe above.

Add bacon and cheese to potato salad dressing mix. Top potato salad with chives after mixing.

Each recipe lends a different flavor, so you can serve both at the same dinner gathering.

I’m going to have some right now! Let me know how yours turns out.

So, remember to watch your salt and sugar, drink plenty of pure water, and breathe in and out!

Thanks for reading!

For more information, email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Be sure to find me on Facebook at Herb Farmer-The Herb Farm.

As always, check with an expert, like your doctor, before using any herbal remedy.