Saskatchewan is apparently having a record year for bugs, particularly mosquitoes. That is pretty impressive in a province where mosquitoes are jokingly referred to as the provincial bird. It contributes to a high level of general misery here on the Acreage, as every mammal on the place is being mobbed constantly. The barn cats go, quite literally, crazy, rolling around on the hay pile, trying to scratch the bugs off. The dogs do their business, and make a beeline back to the house, where they retreat to the living room to scratch at their poor bug-bitten snouts with their front paws.
The mosquitoes bother poor Saffron the goat so much that milk production goes substantially down on calm-ish, damp-ish mild days like we have had lately – she is so busy trying to get the mosquitoes off that she hardly touches her grain, and there is the additional challenge of trying to keep her from putting a foot in the milk bucket when I am trying to milk, and she is trying to kick the mosquitoes off her udder.
The only critters not bothered by the mosquito invasion are the chickens. They eat them. Hubby does not mind the chicken part of the barn chores at all right now…the coop is one of the only respites on this whole place, right at the moment. He hangs out and watches the birds eat the bugs, while poor Saffron and I get eaten alive at the milking stand. We need to get those chickens free-ranging, but the fox that keeps trotting across our back lawn has really been discouraging us from letting the birds out without a good, strong fence.
Hubby, who is not overly fond of the heat, has been wishing for 30+ degree days, just so that he can get into the garden to do some weeding. Even dripping with the highest-percentage DEET formulations we can find, we are just moving meals for the plague of bugs around here. On hot days, they go to ground for awhile, and we can at least move somewhat freely around the mowed parts of the Acreage.
Mosquitoes love the bush and tall grass, so even though I can see ripe Saskatoon berries in the forest, we cannot reasonably pick any of them. I braved the forest for about four minutes a couple of days ago, and despite being mid-day and 30 degrees, and me being quite literally dripping with bug spray, I was chased out before I even got to the berry bush I was trying to pick. The problem is the thick undergrowth and chest-high grass where the bugs find shelter. There are so many stray branches and lumps and bumps and occasional rocks on the ground that it is impossible to mow anywhere near the forest, so the grass has really gotten out of hand.
After brainstorming for awhile, we decided to buy a scythe.
I know, I know, most normal people would get a weed whacker. Electric is not an option, though, and gas powered anything is a real pain in the butt out here, as we are half an hour from a gas station, and always seem to forget to fill the jerry can when we are in town. These delicate machines seem to break on me with alarming regularity, and they are expensive! I reasoned that a scythe, while not exactly cheap, should require only minimal repair over its lifetime, like, say, tightening a bolt on one of the handles, or sharpening the blade. The input, muscle power, is plentiful around here, unlike gasoline at $1.20 per litre. I hate the noise of the mower (I can’t stand the vacuum, either), so a weed whacker would just be one more annoyance, whereas the swish-swish of a scythe is actually kind of pleasant. Once my back heals up, there is a fair chance I will even do some of the grass cutting, a duty that generally falls to Hubby just because I hate the noise of the lawnmower so much.
The other bonus is that the scythe goes through chest high grass quite nicely, and leaves nice, neat piles of greenery that are easy to scoop up and dump in the goat troughs. The goats love it. We may even try cutting the back pasture and leaving it to dry for hay…why not, if it’s free? After just a few minutes’ practice, I can see that Hubby will be able to really motor with that thing – it might even be faster than a lawnmower, at least in the really tall grass. The big trick will be keeping Molly the barn cat out of swinging range…