Tuesday, March 31, 2015
Bunnies and breathing
When I lived in the Canadian arctic (briefly) with my family when I was a teenager, we had a bit of property outside of town and kept a snare line. I learned how to set a snare and then go and collect the free food the next day. We did this in winter when the rabbit runs were most visible in the snow, and the dead bunnies were frozen solid when we got them out of the snare the next day. All winter we had a freezer full of delicious free meat. My stepfather used to make moosehide mukluks and mother would sometimes tan the skins and Graham would add them to the tops of the boots to make them look nice and furry and to keep the snow out of your ankles. It was a win-win.
Around here, the fields are criss-crossed with rabbit trails. Bunnies are creatures of habit, and they will locate a steady source of food and take exactly the same route to get to it every day. This, of course, makes them easy for us to catch if we just pay attention to where the warren is and look carefully at the fields. I've seen loads of bunny highways around about, and every time I do, I think, "Hmmm... gotta get some snare wire."
For many years as a kid I had terrible spring allergies, and would swell up and go half-blind and nasal from April to June. It was like having the worst cold of your life, but instead of lasting a week, it went on for months. We tried all kinds of antihistamines and the awful stuff was almost worse than the ailment. The kind that was not "non-drowsy" had the effect on me of general anaesthetic, and although I could sleep peacefully because I could breathe, I would sleep (or be a walking-dead zombie) through the whole period of their effect, so I woke up when it was time to start wheezing, sneezing, coughing and itching again and had to decide if I was going just be miserable or take a pill and go back to sleep.
The non-drowsy kind allowed me to stay awake but still left me zoned out like a dreadlocked stoner at a music festival, and would generally only work for about half the time it said on the package. If it said 12 hours of relief, it would work for six, and the wheezing, sneezing, coughing and itching would go on for the next six until it was "safe" to take another one and get a few hours relief. And the non-drowsy had diminishing returns, so I would find that after a week or so, the relief time would be down to three or four hours.
This nightmare went on year after year, and no doctor seemed to have any answer except more antihistamines. Then when I was 20, we got to April and it had just stopped. No reason or apology given, my body just decided it could cope with whatever it was floating around in the air. I mostly forgot about allergies until I came to Italy. Here, come April, I would get a brief bout of inexplicable sneezing and runny nose for a few weeks, then it disappeared again. It would come in bursts lasting about an hour at a time, and then clear up, so I didn't bother with drugs.
But this is my first spring in Norcia, and even though there was almost nothing flowering in mid-March, my nose went inexplicably stuffy about a week ago, and things have been escalating since. This weekend, with spring bursting forth all over, we hit full-blown allergenic misery. In the last couple of days, I've been barely able to breathe.
But even this isn't as bad as the itching. Dear Lord, there is nothing worse than the itching! The membranes on the insides of your sinus cavities swell up and start to itch, and it's so bad you find yourself actually contemplating shoving a knitting needle up there just to get some relief. I have woken the last couple of days desperately rubbing my forehead. So I hied myself down to the farmacia, and after a pause for one enormous sneeze, the nice farmacia lady gave me the zombie drugs.
The worst of it (apart from the inside of my skull itching like there's a nest of caterpillars up there) is that I don't know how long it will last. Whatever it is could go all summer.
So, I've looked up herbal remedies, and one of the best bits of news is that there is something out there right now that could give me a bit of relief. I had no idea that stinging nettles were so broadly useful. I knew you could eat them and that they are pretty good, and massively good for you. But I have been collecting medicinal herb books, and they all say to take an infusion of nettle tea every morning, or a few teaspoons twice a day of nettle decoction or tincture.
I've been seeing the sprouting nettle patches all over, and they look dark green and wonderfully healthy, so I've been meaning to go out there and do some collecting anyway. I've also seen loads of Gallium Aparine that I've been having for the last couple of years as a tea to help resolve the lymphatic flow issues that followed cancer treatments.
So today, off we go with collecting bags, scissors and sturdy rubber kitchen gloves. And I'll take the camera.
I've got the peat pots going, and have bought several packets of seeds for lavender, thyme, sage, oregano, marjoram, sunflowers, harebells, rue and mint. The nice young chap from the garden centre brought over the large planter box I bought the other day and we're ready to roll.
I'm a little worried about watering in the summer though. Norcia makes you pay for water, and though it isn't much just for domestic use, I'm pretty sure the garden is really going to make the bill shoot up. It seems a bit hard, considering how much of the stuff flows for free out of the ground and out of the sky here.
The old lady who lives in the house next door has a series of big blue rain barrels along one wall of the house, and I'm thinking that it would be silly to just throw away the greywater from the bath and the washing-up. Not sure how I'm going to work it just yet, but I'll figure something out.