I have always been a strong advocate for spending as much time out of doors as you can. There are many benefits to be derived from walking, biking, gardening, simply sitting out on the porch or lying in a hammock.
According to Clare Cooper Marcus, professor emeritus at the University of California at Berkeley and one of the founders of environmental psychology, “Simply spending time in nature reduces stress, lowers blood pressure and relieves muscle tension.”
But there can be deterrents to spending large amounts of time outdoors, and these will vary from person to person and from area to area.
Ticks are becoming a major problem in many places around the world and while they can be found virtually anywhere, my home in eastern Pennsylvania has the dubious honor of being one of the highest risk areas for Lyme Disease in The United States. We do not go out into the yard, much less into the woods or any other outdoor place, without taking precautions and doing a thorough check for hitchhikers when we go back inside.
I have a real aversion to chemical repellents, especially ones that are applied to the skin, but there are other ways to reduce the chances that ticks will be drawn to you, or that they will have the opportunity to attach themselves.
Let’s start with how we can keep ticks out of our yards.
- Keep the grass mowed and shrubs trimmed. Also clean up leaves and weeds. These are some of the ticks favorite hangouts. If you have wood piles, either stack them neatly in an area that gets enough sun to dry them out, or get rid of them. Ticks love to climb around in damp wooded areas. They do not like sunny dry areas.
- Ticks do not like walking over wood chips or gravel, so if you live near a woodsy area like we do you might want to consider edging your property between the grass and any wooded areas with one of these materials to deter them from crossing over onto your property.
- Planting tick repelling plants might be another option. According to the people at Rodale Organic Gardening the leaves from the American Beauty-Berry Bushes have been shown to repel ticks.
- Having a bird friendly yard can also help as Robins and some other birds like to eat ticks. If you live in an area that allows it you might consider keeping a few chickens as they love to make ticks part of their everyday diet. However some birds will accidentally carry ticks in on them so keep areas with bird baths and feeders clear of anything that ticks could use to hide in.
Different situations require other precautions
When you are away from home it is a different situation. Whether you are out for a hike, camping, or simply playing with your children at the local park you never know when you might encounter a tick.
- Wear light color clothing whenever possible; this way if a tick does get onto you it will be so much easier to see. A hat is also a good idea, and check each other from time to time to see if a tick is making it’s way up your clothing toward any exposed skin.
- Stay out of tall grass and weeds, and wear long pants, socks, and shoes.
- Stay on the path, but if you must venture into the foliage tuck your pants into your socks to make it more difficult for them to hide.
- If you feel that you must apply a chemical repellent apply it to the edges of your clothing where ticks are more likely to first come in contact with you. If I had to choose between a tick born disease and allowing toxins into my system I suppose I would opt for the latter, but never apply it to skin except in the most serious conditions where you have no choice. Your skin is an absorbent sponge and toxins from these chemical pest products will freely enter your system if applied that way.
Mosquitoes are another pest that will keep people in their homes.
These stinging pests make it very unpleasant to spend time in your yard and in other places that you might go to enjoy time with friends and nature. With mosquito-borne diseases like West Nile Virus, Malaria, or Zika becoming more and more prevalent mosquitoes are more than just a nuisance today, but there are ways to combat them as well.
First, the obvious. If you have tall grass or weeds deal with them now. If you have areas of standing water drain them. Replace planters that don’t drain properly, and clean out clogged storm gutters in addition to removing damp wood piles or moving them to areas that receive more sunlight so that they can dry out properly. Finally, don’t let junk like old tires accumulate with standing water in them. These are all perfect breeding areas for mosquitoes.
Mosquitoes are attracted to odors like human sweat, but they do not like strong scents that come from certain plants. Plants like Lemon Balm, Basil, Lavender, Peppermint, Sage, and Rosemary are easily found in most garden centers and will make a difference just being in your yard. But you can take it a step further by using them in other ways to deter these pests.
A study was done in 2009 that showed that the essential oils that come from the Basil plant are toxic to mosquito larvae, so planting this herb, especially near water areas such as ponds may help control how many eggs get laid in the area.
Mosquitoes are not fond of Lemon Balm either but it can be an invasive plant so it might be a good idea to plant it in pots around patio areas where mosquitoes might be a problem. That way you get the benefits without it taking over your garden.
Lavender essential oils, or even the flowers themselves can be rubbed on the skin and is an excellent repellent. Rosemary and Sage can be thrown into a fire pit because many insects do not like the incense that is given off when these two herbs are burnt. This will be a great way to repel them if you are having a cookout and can stay near the fire, or if you are just sitting around a campfire enjoying the night air.
These are just a few ideas for keeping unwanted pests at bay so that you can enjoy the upcoming seasons as much as possible. Here’s looking forward to a wonderful and relaxing summer!
Denise is a Michigander turned Pennsylvanian, who has been writing stories since Elementary School. Denise won an award at the annual Lansing Youth Talent Show, when she was in 10th grade, for a short story entitled Procrastination is Fatal, but didn’t decide on writing as a career until she was 28 years old. While homeschooling her older children she spent 4 years working through a course from The Institute of Children’s Literature. Through the years Denise’s children have had a variety of health issues, many of which have been linked to various sensitives; having spent more than 20 years researching and trying different things Denise has a boots on the ground view on healthier living. Denise currently writes for 2 blogs and has several books in different stages of completion. She is planning to break ground in e publishing, and hopes to have her first Historical Fantasy book which is set during the renaissance, “Lisa, My Lisa?” ready by the first of the year.