Everyone coming into Farmstead Creamery lately has remarked on one thing in particular. THE MOSQUITOS!!!! In swarms, in herds, in droves, everywhere! Some folks say they’ve been here for 35 years and have NEVER seen it this bad before. The hum is everywhere, waiting for you just outside the door or the screen window. Swarms attach even in the heat of the day. And lately, not even the rain keeps them away!
All winter, I’ve been hoping that the endless days of deep snow and frigid cold could be traded for at least some sort of perk this summer—like fewer bugs. But, apparently, such a winter is no deterrent for these winged little biters. I should have known, considering Alaska’s reputation for mosquitoes driving moose into headlong plunging insanity, trying to escape.
“I feel like I’ll just start bleeding all over the floor, I’ve gotten to many pin pricks,” one dinner guest offered yesterday. “They sure are big this year.”
Yeah…pretty soon I’ll have given so much blood to the annual skeeder drive that I’ll simply dry up and blow away one of these mornings doing chores. It’s about like what one might imagine during the days of the Oregon Trail and the fabled skeeder cakes.
Country Fresh Skeeder Cakes:
Water (or milk, if you have it)
Lard and Eggs (if you have them)
A hoe or shovel
A fire, or coals will do even better, if you can wait that long
Place dough onto handy implement in a dollup, hold over fire to cook. You don’t even have to worry about collecting the skeeders—they naturally do this themselves, landing and sticking to the dough. Flip once to cook the other side. Enjoy the free protein.
Even as I write this story, one or two are pestering at my ears and elbows, hovering to find the tastiest place to fill their sack-like abdomens. And yes, I know they’re expecting mothers and everything has a right to live…but please, mosquitoes, pick on someone your own size! Don’t coat the dog, biting her tender belly, or pester the eyes of my chickens. Your bites cause lumps and bumps that itch and prickle long after your lifecycle. Really, ladies, do you want to be the cause of such cruel and unusual punishment? I think that all your skeeders should learn to be vegan! Let’s stop the animal (and human) cruelty right now!
My garden lies half-completed. Not only because the soils are still too cold for planting some crops, but also because those swarms and herds and droves simply drive me insane! I spritz and spray, swat and buffet, wave my hand about…but to little avail. There’s those tasty ankles, the gap between the shirt and the pants when I bend over, around my neck, and on my arms. Mmmm…farm girls taste sooooo good! Just add a little mustard, and the stringiness doesn’t bother you so much.
But chores, oh chores, you can’t put them off. You can’t hurry them too much. And you can’t simply stay inside and hope the chickens fill their own feeders and waterer. Our supply of miss-match odds-and-ends bug spray was running low, so Kara and our intern Sam ran into town to snag some more—only to find the shelves barren.
“We could have gotten a ‘sensitive skin’ version with aloe,” Sam offered, explaining the wide bank of wiped-clean shelving, even at Walmart. “But we figured it must not work as well, since that was the only option left.”
So here we are, doing the skeeder dance through chores on bug-spray-fumes (what’s left at the bottom of the spray can), with our heads wrapped in our anti-insect Buff scarves, hoodies tied tight.
You swat a skeeder here
You swat a skeeder there
You swat a skeeder here
Flying next to your ear
You do the skeeder teeter
And you turn yourself around
And that’s what summer’s all about!
And somehow those little tiny insects, with their little tiny brains, always know when your hands are occupied. It might be at the water spigot, dragging a tarp full of fresh bedding into the barn, or transplanting a young broccoli. So, invariably that chicken-scented water, or the curly bedding shavings, or the mud from the garden ends up on your clothes, in your hair, of across your face as you chase after the little buggers and try to squish them into oblivion.
But the chase continues into the night. Just when you’ve settled down after a long day’s yard work…it comes as if from afar.
You hear it waver, slowly coming forward like some dreaded night wanderer.
Now it’s lightly touching your ear with its legs, tweaking past a strand of hair.
But when you reach out to catch it…it’s gone. This can go on for hours! Sometimes I simply give up and bury under the covers, which is our little Bichon dog Sophie’s modus operandi. But when the house refuses to cool down below 80 degrees on warm summer nights, this quickly turns into an infernal sauna experience.
At that point, my mind grapples between what’s worse—more itchy, incessant bites, or slowly roasting to death under smothering blankets? Do these insect actually find some sort of twisted pleasure in torturing us?
The typical two-week delay to the dragonfly hatch can’t come soon enough! If someone really wanted to make a good business, they could breed early-hatch dragonflies to sell in packages to homeowners. Imagine, have a mosquito problem? No problem, just mail-order these dragonflies, release in your yard, and watch them eat your troubles away! What if you could even have a pet dragonfly that stayed near your hat and ate every mosquito that came near. Now, to me, that sounds like a creative proposal to the situation, rather than more spray.
Folks sure are getting desperate, though. I just received an email from a friend that spraying Listerine could blow the mosquito blues away. I don’t know if it works or not, but I’m getting pretty desperate and might just give it a try. For now, I’ll just have to keep up with as many layers of clothing as I can stand and do the skeeder dance. Ok dragonflies, we’re counting on you, so get to work! I’ve got the rest of the garden to put in! See you down (swat) on the (swat) farm (swat) sometime.
Laura Berlage is a co-owner of North Star Homestead Farms, LLC and Farmstead Creamery & Café. 715-462-3453 www.northstarhomestead.com