This past month has been one for the books! The
book of what NOT to do in the world of flower farming that is. I feel compelled to share; let’s call it a PSA to all my fellow gardeners, flower farmers and outdoor “play in the dirt” enthusiasts. Continue reading my “cautionary tale” below.
Let’s start with weeds. I’m actually quite fond of them most of the time. Weeds are interesting and sometimes flower or will form seed pods that add just the right touch to a flower arrangement. As I spend more and more time designing with florals, I see the value and beauty in them. Not all of them, but, truthfully, as long as it isn’t toxic (which I always check), I’m a fan of them in design work.
Perhaps that’s why I let a certain flower bed with blooms at the end of their cycle, sit neglected with baby sprouts of weeds just starting to break through the garden soil. I would tell myself, “I’ll get to it next week.”, as I glanced at the growing weed patch. Shoving it off to the bottom of my mental checklist…it’s a task for tomorrow. Tomorrow came, so did the next day and the day after that. No weeding. Too many other tasks to attend to that took priority. You’ve been there, right?
Two weeks ago, I glanced at the overgrown flower bed which is now full of knee high weeds and sighed. Talk about overwhelmed. I don’t have a tractor, don’t use pesticides, so there I stood, staring at my once beautiful flower bed trying to noodle the most efficient way to whack the weeds. Surveying the mess in front of me, a little daisy bloom peeks out amid the weeds. What? Wait, there’s more! I move closer and see a large patch of Feverfew that had somehow survived among the jungle of invasive weeds. I was excited to see it. I hadn’t seeded any this year and this patch was the result of last year's sowing, still producing. I MUST get in there and cut as much as I can before the weeds choke it out. Feverfew is beautiful, fresh or dried. I know you understand my excitement, it’s like Christmas morning when you see a seed produce that long awaited bloom and it’s even more exciting when you didn’t plant seeds and find the gems from last season weren’t done.
I hadn’t planned to cut or weed that day. It was HOT. Upper 90’s. Humidity was awful. I wasn’t properly dressed to “work” in the garden. But, the Feverfew was beckoning me. I thought to myself, “I’ll just cut as much as I can quickly and finish later when the weather is cooler and I am dressed for gardening.” You see, I was wearing an athletic type skirt, with shorts underneath, flip flops and a tank top. Also, no garden gloves.
I grabbed my pruners and got to work. Reaching in between the weeds and the flowers to almost soil level and cutting as much as I could. As I harvested, I tossed the bunches beside me and continued on. Another task beckons and I gather the large pile of feverfew from the grassy edge of my wood enclosed bed. I head to the garage to grab a bucket and fill it up with water to place the flowers in. Remember, I cut the blooms on a whim and hadn’t prepared a bucket, worn gloves or put on the right clothes.
I left the flowers in the bucket to hydrate and went to do other things. My boys were home from school, dinner was made, and off to bed.
Later that night, I sat on the edge of my bed, and the back of my left calf felt itchy all of the sudden. I reached down to scratch and felt a raised bump that also felt hard. It wasn’t very big and certainly didn’t hurt. I must have been bit by a mosquito. Too tired to care, I went to sleep.
The next morning, the “mosquito bite” had enlarged and morphed into a substantial wound with surrounding and spreading redness near the “bite.” And, it hurt like Hell. I mean the pain was bad, intense and throbbing. At this point, I’m realizing that it probably wasn’t a mosquito bite or a bee sting after all.
Now, it’s the next day and let me tell you the back of my leg is starting to look nasty. The pain is getting worse and it’s hot to the touch and I don’t feel well. I head to urgent care and they confirm there’s infection. Take some antibiotics and it will improve soon. Okayyyy….
It doesn’t get better though, it gets worse. It’s bad y’all. I’ll spare you the details of the progression of the wound but I now knew I needed to go see my primary doctor to make sure this was normal. I had been on the antibiotic for 2 ½ days and there was no improvement.
My doctor confirmed what I was thinking, it didn’t look like a mosquito or bee sting to her. It looked like a spider bite. She lanced and drained and treated the bite/wound. Put me on a crazy strong antibiotic and steroid shot and sent me home to rest.
So…. it turns out that I WAS bit by a spider, the super scary Brown Recluse spider. It happened the day I was cutting the Feverfew from the weeds, I am guessing I most likely surprised the spider as I tossed the flower bunches behind me and it found it's way to my calf. Maybe it was in the flowers I cut? I can't pinpoint where it was when I disturbed it but it sure wasn't happy and I'm still dealing with his "grumpy greeting." I never saw it. I never felt it bite. But, it left its mark. A week and a day later and I am still recovering. My leg is achy with a dull pain, and slightly a light purplish change in pigment near the wound. It’s healing. But, mostly, I’m just grateful I’m okay.
So, if you garden, if you weed, take care to dress for the task. Had I worn long pants and boots, the spider wouldn’t have been able to bite through the fabric. Heck, if I had actually stopped and weeded the flower bed at the first sign of weeds I could have possibly avoided being bitten. The Brown Recluse spider that bit me was in its natural habitat. A habitat that I unknowingly helped to create by allowing weeds to overtake the flower bed. Weeds, leaf litter, and brush, dark corners in the wood framed bed. A spider's haven.
Pull the weeds, BUT…do take time to put on garden boots and cover exposed arms, legs and hands. Take precautions and protect yourself from the potential hazards that playing in the dirt can sometimes present to us.
I haven’t been outside to the garden beds since this happened. Frankly I’m a little afraid to. But, I will return to them soon. When I do, you better believe, I’ll be covered from head to toe!