Sunday, September 10, 2006

Attack Of The Killer Mosquitoes

Some people are allergic to peanut butter, others to chocolate (the poor souls), some to both. Mainly, they need to respectivey avoid peanuts, cocoa, and Reeces Pieces, and they should be fine. I think most allergies are like that - you avoid what you are allergic to, and are none the worse for wear.

It ain't like that for me.

Lucky guy that I am, I am allergic to mosquito bites. Not only do mosquitoes adore my blood, leaving me with bites which swell up to gargantuan proportions, but they are mobile. Short of staying indoors all summer, there is little I can do to avoid them. I can be with a group of 10 friends and come away the only one bitten - it's like the evil little things know I am allergic and sadistically gang up and go after me. Insect repellent, clothes - nothing stops them...

So, naturally, since I don't have enough hobbies already (ha!), I decided that the height of mosquito season was the time to try my hand at farming and growing my own vegetables and herbs. As tomatoes and basil together is one of my definitions of heaven on earth, I figured I would start with them for my first planting attempt. The basil was easy enough - you buy a plant, stick it in the ground, water it some, and watch it grow. But for the tomatoes, I thought I would be a pioneer and start them from seeds. I bought the pack of seeds, planted them indoors, and, contrary to what I expected, most all of them took! I ended up with 62 tomato plants - and they were fast growing suckers!

Now, aside from the challenge of finding enough room outside to plant 62 tomato plants at least 2 feet apart from each other, there was the issue of digging holes deep enough for the stems to be planted up to their highest leaves (which allows the stem to grow additional roots, better to anchor the plant as it becomes heavy with fruit), sometimes over a foot deep. It was a lot of work, but I was careful to do only a few at a time, so as not to attract too much mosquito love. Each time I planted, I noticed three or four mosquito bites, doused myself with ineffective anti-itch spray, and waited out the swelling.

As the tomato plants grow (and they can grow to 4 or 5 feet, I am told), they need to be staked, to keep the fruit from touching the ground. So, this past Thursday, I spent a few hours staking the tomato plants. I did not realize how long I would be out there, but I tried to protect myself as best I could from the mosquitoes. If I were Muslim and a woman (or
Michael Jackson), I could have worn a burka or an abaya. But as I am not, I did what I could short of walking around in a tent or a bubble - I sprayed myself with insect repellent, wore long sleeves and a hat.

Moment by moment, I would hear another one of the unmistakeable buzzing noises mosquitoes make just before the kill. I hate that sound! I immediately jumped after each buzz to try and avoid the bite, but it is always too late. I walked inside Thursday night and counted 37 distinct mosquito bites all over my body (the one day record for me was 50-something one time after hiking in northern Israel).

The swelling was almost instantaneous. I looked like something out of a zombie movie. It was difficult to fall asleep because of the itching, and the uncomfortability of the hardening bites. Once I did fall asleep, I slept for fourteen hours straight, missed my shabbat plans (was to have gone to New Square with my friend H), woke up drenched in sweat with a headache, stomach pain, and feeling weak. What sucked the most is that this does not even count as one of my
twice yearly getting sick times....

Thank God, the swelling is already going down, and I am feeling much better. The plants are growing nicely, I am anticipating a fall season full of good tomato/basil eating, and, though I know it's Elul, and I am generally anti-violence, I am already plotting my 'skeeter