Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Tall Prairie Tales

The prairie grasses are getting tall with the rain and heat. My two horses do not graze enough of the pasture to keep it from growing five and six feet tall. The path that Duke the good dog and I have made walking to the barn is still there, but the vegetation on either side is mostly taller than I stand now. Walking to the barn is not a pleasant experience. In the mornings my clothes become entirely soaked from the dew, and I mean wet, as if I have been in the shower. Dew or no dew, chiggers get on me and that is something to be avoided at all costs.

Chiggers are tiny, nearly invisible insects that live in the grass. Once they get on your person, they migrate upward and find areas beneath tight fitting clothing. There they burrow into your skin and produce the most maddening itching for the next two weeks. The tender skin on your thighs, right were the elastic in the legs of your underwear is a favorite spot for chiggers. When a big itching spell comes on, you have to scratch yourself - even if you are in public. You hope the public would be sympathetic but you really do not care. You will scratch yourself and hope a video taken by a random phone camera does not appear on YouTube. No one wants their fifteen minutes of fame to be a video of them scratching their crotch in the New Age aisle of Barnes and Noble.

I bought myself a machete last year and have used it to hack through the six foot horse nettle and sunflower stalks that block about a fifteen foot stretch of the path. Those big plants went down like butter, but the big blue stem is basically impervious. In addition to the soaking dew and chiggers, at the bottom of the prairie "forest" poison ivy grows exactly two inches taller than my boot tops. Six feet of prairie is perfect cover for snakes, too. All of these difficulties coupled with the heat and humidity make getting to the barn in the summer a horrible experience. Of course, I could mow - and I intend to mow - but once again the window for mowing the prairie when it is short and manageable disappeared when the tractor was out of commission early this season. Now the plants are too tall and tough to mow with my little yard tractor. It requires a big tractor with a mowing deck.

Once I get to the barn in the mornings, Ginger is waiting for her ration of fly spray and brushing. Annie is off at horse school, so it is just Ginger and me, like old times. She seems genuinely glad to see me and always wants to rest her head on mine. She discovered that the top of my head is a perfect match for the space beneath her jaws. If I allowed it, she would gladly rest her big heavy head directly on mine. It makes me laugh, but I do not think my neck is OSHA rated for holding up horse heads, too. She has to settle for resting her head on my shoulder. With no one of her own species to boss around, she is a pretty nice horse. She is worth the chiggers and the poison ivy and the sopping wet clothes.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It sounds so totally idyllic! Well, except for the part about the chiggers. And the poison ivy. Then there's the wet, the snakes, the horseflies. Any walk that involves a machete might be a bit much...
The tractor is cool though.
The photo is as pretty as a picture!
It's so lovely for you to share your little piece of heaven with us! Well, except for the chiggers...wait a minute, this is where I came in...