home remedies

Delicate Beauty of the Paper Wasp.

Bringing the outdoors in”, is often a decorator term that means using natural materials for home decorating and design. It is not uncommon for people in West Virginia to collect all kinds of natural wonders, often it is the delicate paper wasp nest.

Over the years I have been fascinated with the beauty of the things in nature here in the hardwood forest. I often take photos of mushrooms,flowers, and plants that grow on the forest floor. I collect birds nests and nuts that fall from oak and walnut trees. Yet, the most intricate of all the natural finds is the summer home of the paper wasp. I have often had friends and family members who have displayed them with pride in their homes and businesses.

Carrie Shupp’s Paper Wasp nest collection, Elkins,W.V.
Image of a traditional shaped paper wasp nest via e-bay

The nests are made up of chewed up wood pulp and wasp saliva. The pulp is placed in repeated thin layers around a central core of cells that are the home to all of the wasps larva. It is their home for only one summer season. A good fall frost will kill off not only the larva but also the mature wasps living inside. Fall rain and winter snow are deadly to a wasp nest. Water of any kind will slowly deteriorate the nest before spring. So the challenge of capturing a nest before winter is tough.The goal of the collector is to keep the delicate paper and cells in tact and preserve the nest for the future. It is possible to bag (cover with a trash bag and tie it off) a live nest to try to collect it, but the risk of being stung multiple times makes this way of collection dangerous. Wasps are territorial and will defend their home with hundreds of swarming stinging insects if you threaten their home.

Over the years I have heard several stories of why people collect the nests. Some used them in homeopathic medications, some collect them for display, while others use them to ward off other wasps from building near their homes. I have never tried the fallowing remedy or used a nest to ward off other wasps but I will share these unique stories anyway and let you be the judge of if they are worth the effort.

It was my friend and horse trainer, Red who was the first person who explained to me that he used the paper wasp nest in his treatments for horses and other farm animals. If an animal got a injury that needed to have medication applied to the wound he would make a poultice with a wasp nest as part of the mixture. The paper was torn way from the nest placed into a bowl and crushed with a mortar and pestle.Other items for the poultice was added like leaves, oils and liquids, then mixed with the paper until it became thick and pasty. Then the mixture was applied to the wound. I don’t think the paper had any medicinal qualities other than as a suspension for other ingredients. With the mixture formed into a paper paste I think it would be easier to handle and be applied like a compress. I have never attempted to use a nest this way but it sounds like it would have been easy to make for our forefathers .

The logic of using an old paper wasp nest to ward off other nest building wasps is based on the territorial nature of wasps and hornets. It is rare to observe two nests close together because of in-fighting between swarms of wasps. It is believed that if a dead nest is kept in place, or a artificial nest is placed on a porch, it will prevent more nest building just by being seen by other wasps. The information found online says an artificial nest will keep other wasps from building about 200 feet from where it is hung. So if you can keep an old nest dry, it would be possible to reuse the nest as a natural chemical free wasp repellent.

Fake wasp nest found on line at Garden Supply.

Finally, The most common of all the uses for the delicate paper wasp nest is for decoration. I have found that the owners of the nests love the outdoors and the wildlife of West Virginia. They often have wild stories about how the nest was collected and who got the nest down from some far fetched branch. Often the nests are treated like a trophy, a physical reminder of a courageous adventure up a tree, where a person is face to face with what could be a live nest full of bees.

A friend of mine, Carrie Shupp, shared with me a the story of her cousin climbing a tree, 20 feet in the air, to cut a nest free one fall day. Without ropes or safety equipment her female cousin shimmied up a tree to cut a basket ball size nest free in the canopy of a hardwood tree. With nothing but a hand saw she slowly cut the branch that the nest was attached to and brought the nest back down in her mouth. I am sure I would have passed out from just the thought of getting stung in the face, but this young woman was not worried at all. Not all of the stories I have heard are quite as dramatic as this one, some are just about fallen trees that have huge nests hidden in them. Other friends have told of having nests in bushes behind barns where they are a danger to animals and people.The farmer shared with me that he sprayed the nest with chemicals and left it to dry for a few weeks. Then cut it free from the brush and brought it into the barn to show it off as a prize of the war between man and bees.

Every story is different, but each is about our relationship to nature. Some tails show man triumphant over the simple danger of a stinging bug. Others are about the challenge to gather the delicate paper as if it was a treasure worth risking our lives for. Some are about how they are needed for keeping animals and people healthy and how they are coveted as a tool for healing. Other stories are about the danger and the thrill of the capture. I don’t think any other items collected in the forest causes such a strong emotional reaction. These simple homes are loved and hated in equal measure, making a paper wasp nest a unique and fascinating conversation piece in a home, barn or office.

close up of leaf embedded in the side of a paper wasp nest.

damage shown to the bottom of a paper wasp nest where the cell structure inside the nest is visible.

I suggest that if you ever have the chance to own or collect a paper wasp nest that you take a little time to preserve the nest. Most people will suggest varnishing the nest but I don’t like to change the color of the nest with varnish so instead I use clear flat spray paint. Making sure not to saturate the outside of the nest to much. Let the nest dry and mount in a high dry corner of a room. Then share the wonderful story of how the nest came to be in your home and let people share their feelings about wasps and their nest with you. The nest will keep for many years if they are kept dry and away from curious pets and children.

Categories: bees, Home Decor, home remedies, natural remedies, wasps | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

4 Tips to Avoid Getting Poison Ivy From a Girl Who Has It!

Ok lets just say that my husband told me so…. and I did it anyway. I have never really had a bad case of Poison Ivy up until this mothers day weekend. I wanted to clear away a vine that was clearly poison ivy off a tree we use as shade in the back yard. I wanted to put a sand box and pick-nick table under the Dogwood tree for the kids to play on. So without any thought I had Tom who gets terrible poison ivy to trim the vine off the tree and I would drag the pieces to the burn pile. I took no precautions other than a pair of gloves and that was my first mistake. I should have at least put on a long sleeve shirt, but no, I can handle this, I never get it, were my last comfortable words for a while.

Now that I have an out break, and a pretty good one, I want to share some ideas on how to prevent getting Poison Ivy and Oak. The Appalachian Mountains are home to many poisons plants but the most terrible of all is Poison Ivy. Here are a couple of photos I took after removing the vine last week.We have tons of sprouts that still can cause problems and still need removed before the littl’ens  can play safely under this tree.

Spring shoots of Poison Ivy on tree near children's sand box

Spring shoots of Poison Ivy on tree near children’s sand box

poison ivy new leaves in spring and 3 leaf pattern

poison ivy new leaves in spring and 3 leaf pattern

To identify Poison Ivy you will see three leaves in a group, usually the stems of the leaves grow red or pink. Each leaf that is mature in size has a notch on one side. In the case of these baby leaves they start red and slowly turn green. They have a vine stem of brown with what looks like brown hairs growing around the stem. This is actually the way the vine attach to things to climb.

So now that you know that you have poison ivy how can you prepare yourself to deal with it.

#1 First wear the correct clothing. Yes, I am sitting here wishing I had taken my advice. Long sleeves, long pants, gloves and shoes all need  worn if you know you are going to battle this monster of a vine. Even the slightest touch from a leaf can lead to out break.

#2 Use some of the pre-contact products out on the market both of which we have in our homes medicine cabinet and I still did not stop to think to use. First is the pre-contact towelettes.

Ivy-x towelettes for pre contact and cleanser for after contact

Ivy-x towelettes for pre contact and cleanser for after contact

Simple easy to use and cheap they form a barrier on the skin to stop the plants oil from getting into contact with the skin. Then they also have a Ivy-X product to use after you get exposed and think the skin needs cleaned. My husband is always getting exposed to poison something and gets these at work. He works outdoors year round and cutting trees cleaning up under bridges is just part of the job.He uses these often with great results.

#3 We also have what the family calls the secret weapon for poison ivy. It is a life saver for my husband and son who get terrible cases of poison ivy.  They use Poison Ivy Pills, a Homeopathic Remedy for pre-treatment and exposure to Poison Ivy and /or Oak.

poison ivy pills and homeopathic way to control an outbreak

poison ivy pills and homeopathic way to control an outbreak

The pills contain a micro amount of the oil from the poison ivy plant and by taking very small doses of the aggravating oil your body has time to build up a resistance to it. I have friends and family who once exposed to the plant end up going to the hospital for shots of allergy medications.This little pill can prevent and or reduce the reaction to the oil that humans find so irritating. Each spring my husband and son usually take a preventative dose for the summer and a few again when exposure was possible. It seems to really help if you remember that you have some in the medicine cabinet. Which I did not remember until Tom reminded me and I took the starter dose of about 6 of the tiny pills over 6 hours. They are working to calm the pain, swelling and itching but I should have started earlier.

#4 The best all a round way to reduce the reaction to poison ivy is washing off. With the use of a good dish soap(one for grease cutting) you can almost eliminate a break out altogether. I my case we were working out side for several hours and then got company and I just forgot until a few hours had already passed. I still washed off but the damage was already done.

Then if all of these ideas fail you like they did me, use over the counter medications. I take a allergy medication already and it helps to reduce the itching but the rash needs specific treatments and there are lots of creams to use. I like Ivydry, it is a mixture of drying agents and soothing creams to help get you through Hell Week!

So my friends spring has sprung and the Ivy is growing wild everywhere so take care not to end up like me and think ahead so you do not have to live with this rash for 14 days or more. Now I just have to get a gallon of vinegar and some hot water to kill the rest of those baby Ivy vines without having to touch them.

Poison Ivy on the inside of my forearm

Poison Ivy on the inside of my forearm

information on how to get the Poison Ivy Pills :

Washington Homeopathic Products Inc.

260 J.R. Hawvermale Way

Berkeley Springs, West Virginia 25411

1-800-336-1695

or the website   www.homeopathyworks.com.

Categories: Farm work, gardening, Healing, health, home remedies, wellness | Tags: , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Ooooo That Hurts, a Bee Sting!

Just about everyone has had a bee sting or two. I have had plenty and with a yard full of clover we are very cautious about wearing shoes out side. I guess today was a the day to get a honey bee sting while wearing my Crocs . It was a total surprise and very painful while balancing a 50 pound bag of sand on my shoulder. So here is a reminder of what works and what doesn’t when some one in the family is needing some TLC from a bee sting.

honey bee

honey bee

The first thing to know is if any of  your friends or family is allergic to bee stings. If there is any chance of an allergy call 911. This simple step could save a life. Beyond a life threatening allergy there are a few things that can be used to calm a very painful and usually puffy bee sting.

my foot with a fresh honey bee sting

my foot with a fresh honey bee sting

As soon as I realized that I was stung I put down that 50 pound bag of play sand and pulled off the clog I was wearing. I looked down and looked for the classic black spot of a honey bee stinger still attached to the skin. I pulled it out with my fingers. Yes, you read that right I pinched the darn thing and pulled it out as fast as I could.I was not waiting to walk into the house to find a credit card to slowly pull the darn thing out. I can’t even imagine waiting to get the stinger out for myself but what about a toddler? Really, who is going to make them wait until you get in the house and find your pocketbook and dig out  a card, the whole time they are screaming at the top of their lungs to make it stop and tears are flowing. I am not that MaMa, I am a get that thing out of their as fast as you can and let’s get it washed ASAP, kinda grandma. Some research supports me in my thinking and others say do not take the chance to inject any more poison. I just know that the faster I get my personal stingers out of the skin the less they swell. So I remove them as fast as I can and head for a bathroom. I find that cool water is a God send. It cools the stink and washes away any dirt or grass that maybe in the sting area. If  the cooling would only last a little longer. If possible I take an aspirin or an antihistamine …  Yea, I know common sense would tell you to do this. Many people forget that aspirin is perfect for reducing swelling and pain suppression and Antihistamines  stops the terrible itching that always fallows a good sting. If you can’t get to Aspirin or a Allegra and you are treating a child try this. Mix up your own batch of Baking Soda and water and apply as a past to the sting.

baking soda and water mix together to get a paste

baking soda and water mix together to get a paste

baking soda paste on sting

baking soda paste on sting

Let this concoction dry and it will sooth the sting. It took about 5 minutes for the majority of the pain to pass away. Then to combat the swelling I washed my foot again with a cool wash cloth and used it as a compress. I have also used ice packs for wasp stings. I am more sensitive to them and swell a lot more.  Although, today all I really needed was to reach in my fridge and find a Blue Ice cooler pack and use it, wrapped in a paper towel.

blue ice pack and paper towel

blue ice pack and paper towel

 

After about three hours, I found that with a dose of Allegra, the ice and soda, I was totally fine. No pain, No swelling, and no itching, this was a great first day. Things went very well for a couple of days and on the 3 day after spending a large amount of time on my feet  I did notice a little swelling in my pinky toe and across the bridge of my foot and some general itching. I guess even after 48 hours there was enough poison in my system to have a slight reaction when I was walking all day.

2 hrs after bee sting

3 hrs after bee sting

Some of the other things that my family has tried over the years that do not help us who swell up like balloons are…. deodorant, Calamine lotion, Toothpaste, and  most of the bee sting kits. Most of the kits only mask the pain with a skin numbing agent and a small amount of rubbing alcohol. They do nothing to reduce swelling and the itching. These two symptoms are actually the worst for my family. I can usually get the stinging to stop with the above treatments,but they do nothing for the later effects. I have taken my son to the ER due to swelling of his foot so big that he was unable to wear shoes or see his three smallest toes for several days. So I always keep on had any form of generic children’s allergy medication and my Adult version just in case something happens. I even take them on vacations with us in our medical kits.

three days after a bee sting

three days after a bee sting

I hope that your summer is sting free. I am hoping that I am the only one in my family to have this experience this year. I know my heart would be broken if it was little Christopher who got in a fight with a bee and lost. Kids have such little bodies to deal with this and they suffer so much more than we do. So keep in mind these tips and maybe your summer will be a little more comfortable for everyone.

Categories: bee stings, family health, Healing, home remedies | Tags: , , , , , | 14 Comments

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