Its getting dark earlier. The air cools quick. Fog rises in the usual spots along the creeks and in the valleys I pass on my way home from work.
We’ve had a lot less days above ninety degrees than we’ve had the past few summers and it has been dry. The rains that started the growing season pushed records on the White River and then the spigot turned off. Basically, it has barely rained at all for the majority of June, July and August. Just enough, I guess, to stave off disaster, but it hasn’t been enough. The ground has been hard as a rock ever since I dug that ephemeral pond first week of June.
My late-to-ripen fruits and vines, mainly figs and maypops, may have a bad year. Or it will be a very small year anyway. I need to get out and clear the leaves off the brown turkey and hardy Chicago. My wife says that there are some LSU gold fruit looking good but I haven’t had time to check them out. No maypops have dropped. I go out and kick the trellis that they’re sitting on and upset a couple dozen bumblebees from their bloomed naps and flower bathing but no fruit falls.
On Monday after work, I went over to Jerry’s house to pick up 25 square bales of hay for $2.75 each. The boys went with me and I believe honestly intended to make themselves useful loading hay but Jerry and I had it done in just a few minutes. We didn’t bother with strapping it down because his place is so close. I just drove home slow-ish.
We parked the truck near the barn and I went in to organize last year’s hay so that I could pull it off for feeding first and stack the new stuff separate. First in first out. I had some straw to move around too.
So I was in there, making the stacks higher, getting the straw out of the way, tossing last year’s hay up high toward the rafters and I think I was very near the top of the barn, up by the roof and I feel a sharp painful sting on the back of my head. Then again. And again, in rapid succession. I swiped at my head and jumped down from the hay stacks and booked the heck out of there, presumably yelling something, but I forget what words were coming out.
My youngest was on top of the bales that were stacked on the truck and when I got outside the barn and looked at my white t-shirt it covered in yellowjackets. As I was stripping it off he yelled that he was getting stung too. Luckily my wife was outside and she went to help get my son down and indoors while I ran to the porch, getting stung along the way. I looked down and my jeans were covered with about 30 trying to sting me through the pants, some succeeding. I stripped off my jeans and ran inside, panting and in pain. My son quickly followed crying.
I guessed I’d been stung 20 times. Each sting hurt pretty bad. I’d rather get stung by a honeybee any day of the week. I could get stung by honeybees all day long but not those yellowjackets.
I found out later that they sting repeatedly, the aggressive buggers. Actually, I’d only been hit successfully by 6 individuals. But each of those stung me in the same spot at least a few times. I took some antihistamine and a few ibuprofen and felt better after half an hour but I could still feel it the rest of the night. The next day (yesterday) the bites just started itching. Weird.
I think they’re german yellowjackets. I gather these have supplanted our native ones and they’re super aggressive. Later today, I’ll go out and find the nest. If it is where I think it is up near the top of the rafters in the barn, then I’ll leave it alone. They isn’t much time left before they’ll die anyway. Hopefully, I don’t find they’ve built a nest inside the stacked hay.
And speaking of the family Vespidae, we have a scary bald-faced hornet nest just inside the “wild orchard” at the bottom of one of the hazelnut bushes. I’ve never seen a bald-faced hornet nest so low. It is almost on the ground.
You know, I like having these guys around, even the yellowjackets. They’re badass predators of insects. But they’re scary too, the way they gang up on a person, let out that pheromone where they sting to tell the hive where to attack, then the repeated stinging. It’s just like Leadbelly says, ” You can sting me one more time, Please don’t sting me no more”
Painting by Vincent van Gogh