When my husband and I first moved to Missouri back in 1980 we were pretty poor. If we had a nickel, it would be lonely. Imagine how excited we were to have found a farmhouse to rent. It was owned by an older couple who basically just wanted someone in it so it wouldn’t get destroyed by vandals. It had been the woman’s homestead that she inherited from her parents. They offered it to us for $25 a month during the winter months if we would count their cows and feed them some hay. During the summer when they didn’t need to be fed, we were to pay $50, but they took pity on us and never changed it from $25!

   We really had it good, even though that farmhouse was rather rough. We had a well, so no water bill. We heated it with an old wood stove so there was no heat bill. But we didn’t have a truck, or a chainsaw so getting wood would be a challenge…you’d think. No truck or saw but David had a good strong back. So, he’d go with the neighbor in his truck with his chainsaw. The neighbor would get a load, his dad would get a load and we’d get a load. That neighbor and his dad were true friends to us.

   Currently, I am diffusing Belle Aroma® Organic Peppermint Essential Oil in my diffuser. It is one of seven invigorating scents including Rose Geranium, Clary Sage, Organic Lavender, Ylang Ylang, Organic Sweet Orange, and Organic Lemongrass. These are pure all-natural oils that will bring the soothing scents of nature into your home, car, office….wherever you’d like to be calmed or invigorated.

   It is this peppermint that got me thinking about the old farmhouse. This prompted the vivid memory of my first excursion into berry picking in Missouri.

   Having been raised by hard working parents, and particularly a mama who loved canning and jelly making, I was absolutely thrilled to find on this 90-acre farm the hugest blackberry bushes I had even seen in my life! We went out one Sunday afternoon with a bucket tied to each of us and proceeded to pick bucket after bucket of big, luscious blackberries! I quickly envisioned pints and pints of blackberry jelly, jam, syrups and just all things blackberries.

   The problem with the plan began that evening. We both started itching!! We had bites all around our waists, around the top of our socks, our ankles and a few other random spots. The weird thing was we could not see any bugs to swat away. This was our introduction to chiggers!! We learned later that chiggers live in blackberry bushes, tall grass and brushy areas. Oh! That beautifully described that whole farm.

   We filled our many buckets, hauled them back up to the farmhouse and began washing them and picking through them, removing the leaves, etc. so I could start my jelly making the next day. But we got sidetracked by all the itching!! I counted my “spots.” I had 163 chigger bites. If you don’t know what chiggers do, let me explain. They are tiny red mites, hard to see with the naked eye, that burrow down into your skin and keep eating and secreting digestive enzymes so they can drink your flesh! Yes, I know. It sounds like a horror movie!! Trust me! It is! There is intense itching for about 48 hours and then it starts to subside but doesn’t go away for at least 2 weeks. Well, we processed the berries, but since 1980 we have never picked another blackberry!! I’ll just buy them at the farmers market, thank you very much! Haha!

   I wish I had known then what I know now. Chiggers hate essential oils such as lavender and peppermint! You can mix these up with water in a spray bottle and end up with a natural repellent! I haven’t tried it yet, but I will be. We will be entering chigger season very soon and are already in tick season. I’m going to do a DIY tick repellent using Rose Geranium and Lemongrass essential oils mixed with witch hazel in a spray bottle. Last year I ended up with 13 tick bites. David got his first one yesterday. We prefer not using products with Deet so I’m really looking forward to trying a more natural remedy.

Lori Herr for The Gift of Scent

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