October 2012
Howle's Hints

A Touch-Me-Not Remedy for Poison Oak

“Content makes poor men rich; discontent makes rich men poor.” – Ben Franklin

There’s plenty of truth in Ben Franklin’s words over 200 years later. Even Paul said in Philippians 4:11, "I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances." All you have to do is talk to someone who lived through the Great Depression in Alabama, and most of them will tell you things like, "We didn’t have much, but we had plenty to eat and we were happy." The reason they had plenty to eat is they knew how to grow it, shoot it and cook it.

I scratch my head as I watch inflation drive up the costs of goods and services while incomes stay the same or decrease. I was recently in a mall waiting for my wife to pick out back-to-school clothes for the kids. I spotted a shirt with snap buttons and a western yoke in a store that certainly wasn’t known for western wear. Most of the people in the ad photos appeared to be in their late teens or early 20s. But the shirt caught my eye because it looked like something I might wear, and it was far away from the skinny jeans, hoodies and jeans that looked like they were worn while packing the bearings on a truck. I flipped the price tag over and the cost was $75, and it was made in China.


Above, Mimosa pudica has leaves that curl when you touch them. Alabama Indians used this remedy on poison oak. Below, The roots of the Mimosa pudica plant can be boiled and rubbed on outbreaks.


My first thought was, "How many people from the Great Depression would have worked 75 days to get that shirt?" We’ve come a long way from people washing cotton guano sacks and scrubbing the fertilizer numbers off to make shirts and dresses. If prices keep climbing, we may find ourselves scrubbing and sewing again.

Home Remedies

With inflation and the higher cost of living, many are turning to traditional means to treat injuries and illness. I recently had a skirmish with poison oak while weed eating a road bank covered with growth. Turns out, a lot of the growth underneath the weeds and grass was poison oak, and I got the shredded, wet leaves all over my arms and neck.

Here are a few treatments: First, wash your exposed areas with cold soapy water or cold water mixed with a mild solution of bleach. This will at least minimize the amount of toxin entering your skin. The cold water helps keep the pores of your skin closed. Next, I went to Gary Wright, drugstore owner and Boy Scout Troop leader. He recommended hydrocortisone cream. I asked him how long it would take to get rid of the itching and aggravation. He said, "According to doctors, with medicated cream, you can get over it in 14 days, and if you take no medicine, you can get over it in two weeks." Then he laughed, I scratched some more, and went to the woods looking for an old Indian remedy for poison oak outbreaks involving boiling the root of the touch-me-not fern. The technical name is Mimosa pudica, but some call it the shame face plant and touch-me-not. This is a tiny, fern-looking plant with lots of small spikes along the stems and, when you touch it, the leaves of the fern close up. Be careful, however, this plant also grows in the same soils as poison oak. I boiled the roots for about 30 minutes and applied the warm water to the rashes and did get temporary relief. It certainly helped to dry out the irritated areas.

Winter Greens

It may feel like winter is a long ways away, but, if you haven’t already planted your greens, get them in the ground quick. Plant the tiny seeds no deeper than ¼ inch. Many people simply broadcast the seeds on a prepared seedbed, but you can also walk or drive an ATV over the sowed seeds to pack them into the ground.

It’s a good idea to keep something growing in your garden most of the year. In the spring, plant your warm-season crops such as corn, tomatoes and beans. I come back during July to plant peas between the maturing corn rows. The peas fix nitrogen and help build the soil quality. Finally, your greens will provide food into the winter.

Abigail Howle harvests a bucket of turnip greens and kale from the fall garden.


A bottle of Windicator powder will tell the wind direction any time.

Scent Free

 With deer season quickly approaching, controlling your scent is the biggest key to success when matching wits with a mature buck. You can buy expensive detergents, or you can simply wash your hunting clothes in baking soda. Hang the clothes outdoors to dry, and you can get a free cover scent which is nature itself. Be sure not to do any grilling of meat while your clothes are airing out.

In addition to removing scent from your clothes, more important is approaching deer from downwind. One product extremely useful in detecting wind direction is a product called Windicator by Hunter Specialties. You simply puff the powder out of the small bottle and the slightest breeze will carry the powder in the wind direction. Visit www.hunterspec.com and type in "windicator" in the search box.

This is the old mine shaft I almost walked into.


Don’t Get Shafted

During October as you are scouting or hunting on new or unfamiliar land, be on the lookout for old, abandoned wells or old gold mine shafts. I almost walked right into a gold mine shaft large enough to drop a four wheeler into it. I dropped a rock over into the abyss and counted off four seconds before hearing a splash. I marked the area with plenty of flagging tape, but it could have been a disaster with two more steps.

If you are on land with an old rock chimney, also be on the lookout for an abandoned well nearby. Some would simply lay boards across the old well and, of course, the boards rot out and weeds can grow over the opening. The best rule of thumb is to always use caution on new lands.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.