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
revenge....

29 comments:

Sara with NO H said...

They get through tights just fine too. Believe me, trying to scratch through tights is worse than you can imagine.

Mia said...

Poor you, I feel so sorry for you! Mosquitoes love me too, but thankfully I am not allergic to them. Does it help to take anti-histamines?

Jack's Shack said...

I want to see the pictures of you in the burka.

~ Sarah ~ said...

Shame... that's not good... i hope you recover quickly. The mozzies used to love me when I was younger, I spent my summers itching away.

But my worst mozzie experience was also in northern Israel... so many bites on my legs I lost count and spent a rather miserable shabbos somewhere trying to keep my skirt from making the itching worse.

Have you thought of investing in one of those outfits like beekeepers wear? (Or similar?)

The tomatoes better be worth it! :)

MC Aryeh said...

Sara - Sounds like another vote for a burka....thanks for stopping by. Very cute icon.

Mia - Thanks, but I actually doing fine now. None of the over-the-counter stuff has ever helped. Symptoms never last more than a couple days and it is hardly ever this many bites. Just have to wait it out...

Jack - Ha! You send me the pictures of you in a burka and I'll send you mine....

Sarah - Thanks. Mozzies? That makes them sound all warm and fuzzy, like a pair of slippers! I like 'skeeters better - sounds more redneck. No beekeeper suit for me. I love nature and want to enjoy it. Sucks to be allergic, but it could be worse. Thanks for the suggestion. And, yeah, those tomatoes had better be delicious!

Stacey said...

OMG, MC! Please be careful. I mean, I would hate for you to get West Nile Virus. Have you tried Benadryl for the allergic reaction part? (An added benefit is that it will knock you out).

Also, have you tried any of the newer repellents w/picaridin as the active ingredient? I like those much better.

P.S. You have quite the green thumb. There's nothing like juicy homegrown tomatoes!

Jack's Shack said...

Ok, try this.

~ Sarah ~ said...

Mozzies - Australian slang ;)

tafka PP said...

Ew. I'm empathising with the "gargantuan proportions" - I discovered on a trip to Latvia that the local mozzies there (who are truly evil and hunt in vicious packs) cause me such delights. I'm sorry to hear you are continuously targeted and suffer so much. I've found tea tree oil to be a relatively good repellent, but it had no effect whatsoever on those Latvian mutant ninja b******s so the ones around your tomatoes might be equally immune.

But my empathy for your plight has been overtaken with nausea, having read that disturbing article about Michael Jackson you linked to: How on EARTH is he being allowed to raise those poor children?

Sarah said...

So sorry to hear about this!

FYI, when I planted my little herb garden in my windowsill, several Israelis told me that certain herbs act as mosquito repellents; that is, if you grow those herbs near your house/ window, the mosquitos will stay away.

I wish I could remember now which of my herbs they were talking about . . . it could have been the basil, or the dill, or the rosemary. Probably not the oregano, mint, or parseley.

You could try looking it up. If it's true, maybe you could plant herbs in between the tomato plants, and work on your tomatos with impunity.

Sarah said...

I want to know how "sara with no h" got that cool little guy by her name. That's awesome. I want one.

Sara with NO H said...

I'm not sharing him!!! He's mine.

Wow Mcaryeh, you sure have a lot of Sarahs on your blog.

MC Aryeh said...

Stacey- I would hate for me to get West Nile Virus too!! Thanks for the concern - I will try your suggestions. My thumb is not so green yet. I am hoping for an abundance of tomatoes...but we will see.

Jack- Where in the world did you find that picture?! Interesting that it looks like none of the other pictures of you on your blog...but a deal is a deal. Here is mine. I am the one in front.

Sarah- That's what I figured. Still sounds like fuzzy slippers, though...

TAFKAPP- What were you doing in Latvia? And is mozzie British slang too? I will try the tea tree oil, and willpray that the mosquitoes in my neck of the woods are not of the evil ninja b**** variety of which you speak. I am with you in your horror at Michael Jackson raising children. Just wrong.

Sarah- Thanks for the tip, but I have a feeling the appeal of my blood would counteract any repellent out there. They just love me that much. I also want to know where Sarah with no h got her icon, and also what she did with her h....

Sara with no H - Did you make the icon yourself? Sarah's are always welcome here, with or without h's...

Sara with NO H said...

I think I was born deformed...with no H I mean. I never had one to lose :(
As for my little icon, someone else in blogworld showed me how to get the moving one, so I can email you the info if need be. But you're not allowed to use mine. Deal?

Jack's Shack said...

Ah yes, the eyes look just like you.

Eshet Chayil said...

Hey, I'm a Sara. well a Suri..Does that count?

MC Aryeh said...

Sara with no h- Some very fine Sara's are h-less. I accept your icon deal terms...thanks!

Jack- The eyes always give it away...

Eshet- Sure does! And that is a much better icon for you, I think. What was the other one?

Photochick said...

ah yes the summer bug love fest. i recall getting stung by horse flys, that was fun. try masquitoe netting, they make hats with it on.....it is not so bad to wear, yes i have experienced this while hiking through mosquitoe growing fields...also known as swamp land

Eshet Chayil said...

my last icon was a chassidishe kid saying born to kvetch under it. I loved the kid but it was time for a new look.

Rebecca said...

awww! Feel better! I hope the tomato and basil is worth it!

Elster said...

Wow, lots of Saras. And Sarahs. Mc: My wife and son suffer from your malady as well. They are like skeeter magnets and they get tennis ball sized bites. It's a curse but at least it's seasonal. Imagine havie full year allergies or somethng like that. it's all about perspective.

Oh advance warning - I am going to be skewering you (and some other choice company ) on my blog in short order.

MC Aryeh said...

Photochick- What are you doing in swamp land? When I was out at Bat Ayin, I had to sleep with a net over my bed just to minimize the number of bites. Those were good times...

Eshet- Ah, from the book!

Rebecca- Thanks. Already feeling much better. Just the thought of tomato and basil may be worth it!

Elster- Thanks for setting me right. Your poor wife and son! I empathize...I love a good bbq, but hope the skewering is not too bad...I can be next up on Storytellers if you can wait until Sunday...

Sweettooth120 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sweettooth120 said...

I too, am one of those souls that mosquitos, heck, almost all bugs seem to adore. I could be in the empire state building with only one msoquito and IT will find me. So I started to take Vitamin B complex and it really helps. Supposely the odor it emits off, keeps them away, or at least from biting.

MC Aryeh said...

SweetTooth - Wonder which of us they would go for if we were both in the Empire State Buiding at the same time...vitamin B is definitely worth a try! Thanks for the suggestion...

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

i'm allergic to cats and they specificly come over to torture me like the mosquitos do to you.

MC Aryeh said...

I sympathize, but I'd take cats over skeeters any day, as they at least do not penetrate your skin (I hope)!

Ben said...

I do feel sorry for you. Hope the harvest of tomato and basil was fruit enough for all the torture that you went through. I do hope anti histamines should help you. This is Ben from
Israeli Uncensored News

Nancy said...

I hope you are feeling better now!! Your narration is so descriptive that I could almost feel you pain.

Keep sharing!!

This is Nancy from Israeli Uncensored News