When we bought this place 15 years ago, there was an old, spent almond orchard in the back acre. The trees had been cut but the stumps had not been dug out, so suckers grew back into pretty good size, shrubby trees. They didn’t produce nuts, but lots of pretty flowers. My husband’s pollen allergies went completely wild, his eyelids would swell up like puffer fish and he’d start sneezing uncontrollably. Even though I grew up in the orchards of Glenn County, it bugs me too, gives me a constant nasal drip, makes me feel like Dorothy in the poppy field.
I remember, at this time of year, my grandma always had a drip at the end of her nose, and never went anywhere without half a pack of tissue stowed in her brassiere. My grandpa used to coat himself with Mentholatum. They both seemed extra tired all the time. While it wasn’t as dramatic as my husband’s attacks, I realize, my family dealt with it too.
When we first bought the property, we just tried to avoid the back acre. After we’d moved in, we began to slowly remove the trees – almond is about the best fire wood you can get, and we were using a wood stove as our sole source of heat at that time.
We saved one old full tree that grows next to our garden. I asked my husband to leave it because it is a gathering place to so many birds – sapsucker drills his little sugar wells and all the others come running. It also has a beautiful shape, and spreads itself out to shade an entire part of the yard in Summer. We plant our more sensitive vegetables within range of it’s shadow.
But, of course, it sits out there right now like Pollen Island. Sometimes I can smell that sweet stink at my front door and it makes me feel panicky – our windows are shut up tight. But it’s only the first in a series of blossoming trees – there’s one right over our driveway, outside our bedroom windows, that coats everything within a 20 yard radius with green shiny pollen. It even gets on surfaces on my patio, across the driveway and around the corner. It looks like green ground glass.
It resembles a mulberry tree, another incredible pollen producer. Like mulberry flowers, these flowers burst like a puff of smoke when they are hit with the warm sun – POOOF! For two weeks I feel we are under siege. I try to hurry it along – when most of the flowers look ready to go, I wait until the sun hits the driveway and spray them off with the hose. It looks almost like a fire – with greasy, green smoke. I bundle up from head to toe and discard my clothes and head coverings on the patio before I run in to shower off. I use a lot of Noxema face wash at this time of year, it feels good on my sinuses.
This year we cut all the low branches on the driveway tree, eliminating many of the buds. We also prune all the privet hedges around our property at this time of year. Local homeopath Davin Finn once told me privet pollen is the worst stuff you can get ahold of. I know, when we had a house with a lot of mature privet trees in the neighborhood, I got so sick I couldn’t get out of bed for a week. Growing up on a farm, I had never known flowers could make you so sick.
It’s funny not all flowers make me sick.
I love rosemary, and she loves me. These flowers are safe to cut and bring into the house. When they fade you can strip the little stems clean and put bite size pieces of meat on them, use them for your bbq. I like to dry the cuttings and burn them in my chimenea, the smell is just incredible, and good for my sinuses.
Mid center of that picture you will see a “kissing bug.” Don’t bring those in your house. They will bite you, and some people are so sensitive to their bite it causes respiratory problems. Aaron Standish calls them “assassin bugs”. At the very least you will get a very painful wound. Watch for these guys in your shoes and anything you leave outside this time of year, check your laundry when you bring it in. If you find yourself in a swarm of them, get out, treat them like bees. At this time of year they are hatching, and sometimes you’ll find an infestation in your yard, especially wherever the ground is hard and dry.
The good thing about kissing bugs – they eat aphids. Da me un beso!
I am sitting inside right now because I’ve heard the hours of 7 – 9 am are the worst for pollen – as the sun comes up, the flowers become “activated.”
I tell myself, don’t be irrational, the flowers are not trying to kill you.