Wild Berries and Skin-Drinkers

A rare day off together, it was clear and beautiful outside to boot.  Hubs and I had grand plans to go to lunch alone while the kids were in school and generally just hang out together.  That was before the pool pump broke and squashed our plans.

The kids had been begging to swim all weekend long, which means the pump would have to be either repaired or replaced.  That job is in his department, not mine, thankyouverymuch.  But I knew a few trips to the hardware store and perhaps a couple of hours at the work bench are indeed expected.  He asked, Would I mind if he gets right on that?  It’s for the kids, after all.  We could our lunch next time.

Yeah great, Honey.  I’m sure I’ll find something to do without you.

So…

I packed up the van with essentials, popped in a rockin’ Alice in Chains CD, and headed to a hot spot at a local park to pick some summer berries.  Foraging for food is easy to do in these parts, if you know where to go, and wild blackberries (we call them “dewberries”) are in full fruit.  He headed off to Lowe’s and I checked off necessary items for my day trip:

  • Still and video cameras
  • Lawn chair (to act as chair and table)
  • Gum boots
  • Jeans
  • Two layers of shirts, one short-sleeve, one long
  • Sulfur
  • Deep Woods Off (high DEET)
  • A long staff (for flushing snakes)
  • Leather gloves
  • Buckets and bags

I got there early and no one else knew about the berry stash, it seemed.  Though cloud-covered the temp registered an unseasonably cool 75 degrees — a perfect day for picking berries.  Aside from the occasional joggers and moms with strollers, it was just me and the birds.  Okay, so it wasn’t just the feathered friends I was sharing space with.  Each time I flushed a snake, I was late to the camera.  I love photographing reptiles — especially snakes.  Just must be careful not to step on them; they’ll simply go somewhere else if I’m in the area.

As I walked back from the field where my backpack and chair was waiting, bags of fresh-picked berries in each hand, passersby would asked me if I saw any snakes or alligators (it’s near a wetland area).  So I told them.

“Snakes…yes, a couple already, copperhead, mostly, ” I answer straight away.  I can tell by the way they look at me that they are quite happy on the gravel trail.  “Alligators…none so far, but I don’t think they come out here.”

Before I could get to what really concerns me, they begin to detect the smell of rotten eggs wafting from my general direction, and quickly walk away.

You see, it’s the lovely little, unseen creatures that I worry about — I can only try to avoid contact with them.   I like to say, this is an insect’s world and we’re living in it.   Sulfur and DEET are my sheilds.

Last year, I wasn’t quite as vigilant with the bug spray as I should have been and I wound up paying for it.  This time, I was very certain to spray every part of my body from the top of my head to the toes of my gum boots, and I even added the sulfur as extra insurance.  It would prove not enough to do battle.

I still got bit.  A lot.  I must have unknowingly crashed a little chigger office party.

A diagram of the stylostome, or the hardened tube of dead cells formed by chiggers (Larval form of the trombiculidae) when feeding on them. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What’s a chigger, you say?  I’ve added this nice creepy picture for you, because I’m nice like that.  These guys — not mosquitoes — are the real biters.  The larval stage of the adult body mite (an arachnid, for you spider-haters) hangs out in vegetation, laying-in-wait for an unsuspecting animal to drop by for dinner.  Or lunch.

This day, they made me their Guest of Honor.  scratch scratch

I’ll take mosquitoes any day.  Spiders too, as long is it’s not a black widow or brown recluse, which is all the venomous ones we get around here.  The biting gnats can be pretty bad this time of year too, but at least you can see what you’re dealing with:  they are reluctant to land on a bug-spray-laden face.  I’ll even take the sting of a parasitic wasp — the most painful sting I’ve ever experienced — when I occasionally brush up against one doing garden chores.  But chiggers are the worst.

You can’t see them, not even with a microscope.  They are particular about where they feed, jumping on, running around in search of tight, warm places to inject their saliva.  They then sit down and wait for your skin cells to turn to liquid, so they can feast on your gulp skin soup.  Ew.  Clever enough to bring their own Crazy Straw (a stylostome) to the punch bowl, at least you don’t have to do dishes later.  So kind of them.

They love dark, warm, soft places on your body.  Think for a minute about where that might be.

Q:  Where is there ample elastic real estate, minimal bodily movement, small folds of skin, and a nice, warm, cozy environment — all in one place?   A:  The nether regions:  your panties.

Now you know why I fear them so.  And why I will be even more careful next time.

Sorry, but I must stop here.  I now need both hands in the worst way.  Not for eating these delicious breakfast berries like you may think.

scratch scratch

12 thoughts on “Wild Berries and Skin-Drinkers

  1. Man, I’m getting itchy just reading this. Chiggers have just gone from something I’ve never heard of to the stuff of nightmares.

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  2. Hahahaha oh my god. I’m SO sorry for your encounters with chiggers. I too have had a similar experience and I know that there is nothing funny about it. However, I couldn’t stop laughing when you described their love of the “nether regions of your body”. I mean, if I were a chigger I would totally go for the panties.

    Its a shame that you were interrupted from your delicious berries.

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    1. LOL What an awesome place to dive in, right? Dang little buggers. I’m careful not to use the word “hate” in describing anything, but chiggers are the closest I’ve come.

      Remember the Sits-Bath they sent home with us after giving birth at the hospital? It’s being used once again. Hot water on the tush is the best medicine for an insane itch. I’m already 200% improved this AM.

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    2. …and the berries ARE delicious! I’m sure ll go picking again next week, if you can believe that bit of masochism. There’s just nothing sweeter than berries picked right off the vine.

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      1. I believe it. There is nothing better than fresh food. Coming back from California, I have now become a food snob.
        “Is that fresh avocado? It doesn’t look fresh. What about these blueberries? They’re kind of hard. Do you have anything more plump?”

        My family no longer shops with me.

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    1. You have no idea. The proof is in the photo, but I’m not certain my blog is the best platform. Even my husband feels sorry for me, and that’s saying a lot.

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