Josh Posts: Poison Ivy

I love our woods.  The black raspberries are wonderful.  Rabbits are darting in and out of the woods nearly every time I go up the driveway.  Saw a eight point buck last week fifteen feet from the door.

Eight Point Buck at Root and Sky Farm

I've seen a moth the size of the palm of my hand.  Actually, that was a little unnerving, as it was colliding into the window again and again after the light. It was less a gentle "ping, ping" and more of a "thump, thump" on that single pane glass.  All neat and interesting, and non-threatening. 

BUT. See. When moving the pigs to new pastures in the woods each week, I need to clear strips of land at the perimeter of the new area to put in the fence.  The undergrowth I go through is thick and prickly--I wear a long sleeve shirt, jeans, and leather gloves.  I cut weeds, vines, and small shrubs, and toss them out of my path to prepare for the pigs.  After wrestling with twisted fencing, and soaked in summer wool sweat a ton of sweat, I get the pigs moved to their new home.  

But last time I moved the pigs, I noticed an itch on my wrist.  Mosquito bite?  They are vicious right now.  Swarming.  It's been a very wet summer.  But no.  A couple of days later, it starts to blister and itches like mad.  After a little research, and knowing that we have poison ivy in the woods, I put it together. I put some anti-itch salve on it, and dealt with the irritation for a while, waiting for it to get better in a few days. But then, I started to notice other small pimple like clusters on my forearm.  Wait, and then on my triceps (or rather, well, where this skinny armed man's triceps muscle should be).  I get two hours of sleep.  Work a farmer's market in the morning, and after doing a little research it is decided (translation:  I spoke with my lovely wife, Tiffany)  I need to go to urgent care.  Prednisone is prescribed because in some people that get poison ivy, it can get into your bloodstream and start new patches on your skin in areas of your body that had no contact with the dreaded plant.  I am one of those people.  

Most of the poison ivy I've seen in our woods is along trees.  A vine runs at or just under the ground, finds a tree, and shoots up it with hairy roots to cling to the tree. 

Poison Ivy on a Tree

I believe I probably bumped into a tree while cutting the electric fence for the pigs.  I didn't get a great picture of it, but the tip leaves are usually red, and gradually the infamous three leaves appear down the vine.  

How do you get rid of the ivy?  Pigs have done a decent job exposing the vines, and I've read they will eat the stuff.  They aren't gnawing it off the tree, though.  Cutting it releases the urushiol oil into the air, so I will need to probably get out pruning shears and loppers and wear the equivalency of a hazmat suit.  Burning is a no-no, because again releasing the oil into the air for your lungs and eyes is not a good idea. 

Poison Ivy on the Trunk of a Tree

There is one idea that I like more than any other.  GOATS!  They love the stuff!  I have hesitated on goats in the woods here because of my fear of them getting out into the neighborhood.  The old timer saying is, 'if your fence can't hold water, it can't hold a goat.'  Not exactly encouraging for a new farmer to hear, but maybe 2018 will be the year of the goat!  Stay tuned...