Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Fighting the poison ivy

After the worst of the rain had stopped I took a walk around the yard and realized I had three poison ivy vines starting to infiltrate the landscaping. This is bad, very very bad.

I first found out I could catch poison ivy in the fifth grade, when my science class went on an insect collecting expedition in the hills behind the elementary school. My best friend Judy and I emerged from the woods with an impressive butterfly collection and an even more impressive poison ivy rash. We spent several weeks carrying a small bottle of calamine lotion everywhere we went, daubing pink blotches on the rash and trying not to scratch. The only consolidation was that we weren't the only ones.

I now have a pathological fear of poison ivy, oak, sumac and such. If any of these get a foothold on me they are not easily evicted. I have blessedly never developed a systemic case, but isolated patches are bad enough. Needless to say, whenever I see a vine starting on the property I get a) panicky and b) creative on how to uproot the thing without dire consequences to myself.

Today, I armed myself with long pants, a long sleeved shirt (and it was a HUMID morning - miserable), heavy socks and leather shoes, my old safety glasses from the plant with the side shields attached, a scarf tying up my hair, plastic gloves AND cotton gardening gloves. These were an old pair that were about to bite the dust anyway, so I was willing to sacrifice them to the gardening gods.

I gathered up my long-handled pointy cultivator and plastic bags. At each location I performed the following dance:
1. Open the plastic bag, roll the top slightly and lay it out open on the grass.
2. Carefully untangle the poison ivy vine with the cultivator and dig out as much of the roots as possible.
3. Using the pointy tip of the cultivator, gather up the vines and roots and deposit them in the plastic bag.
4. Still using the pointy tip, snag the edges of the bag closed and carry it impaled on the tool, as far from the body as possible, over to the garbage can. Deposit bag in garbage can.
5. Repeat at each location.

We have the kind of garbage mini-dumpsters which are emptied using a remote arm on the garbage truck, so this was the only way I could think to get rid of the stuff without endangering other people. I will need to wash out the garbage can Thursday with bleach.

After I was finished, I peeled off the cotton and plastic gloves as one, carefully not touching the outside surface of the gloves with bare skin, and deposited them in the trash can too. My nuclear industry dress-out training came in handy here - we are taught how to remove multiple layers of potentially contaminated coveralls, shoe covers and gloves without contacting any of the outer surfaces of the garments. Then I stood the end of the cultivator in a bucket containing a strong bleach solution, where it will sit for a couple of days before it is rinsed.

I am going to stick a bamboo garden stake at each location where the poison ivy was removed so I can monitor for recurrence. I know this has a real "Andromeda Strain" flavor to it, but I was being as careful as humanly possible. It must have worked - as my husband said, I would know by now if it didn't.

By the way, it's universally acknowleged on the internet that Zanfel is the best treatment for poison ivy. Pricey, but it works. I bought some the day before yesterday in case there was a breakdown in my process.


Suzan said...

My son also takes incredible precautions when he attacks poison ivy. His allergic reactions over the years have been absolutely horrible. I vividly remember blotting the oozing patches with diluted bleach when he was a child. Ugh!

Greenmare said...

well anybody that has dealth with one of the poison plants will totally understand. I had a horrible case of poison oak or something when I was a teenager too. The scars have faded, but they hung on for a few years!

The Calico Cat said...

I'll have to remember the zinfandel tip...

Sure beats bathing with fels naptha!

Joan said...

Here's a terrible poison ivy story. When I was 8 or 9, my best friend and I decided to "carve" each other's initials on our forearms with - you guessed it - poison ivy! She had nice raised initials (mine) on her arm -- I swelled up like a pumpkin and was out of school for two weeks! Now I too, have a deathly fear of poison ivy!

Lucy said...

I think I'm the only person on the planet that has never had poison ivy. And for all the times as a child (and adult) I have trudged the wilderness, I find that strange. But I'm not really complaining. I don't really want it.

julieQ said...

And...don;t touch the cultivator, or your shoes...I had it so bad I was nearly hospitalized! Awful stuff...