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Poisoned Soil?

 
Nolan Robert
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Hello everybody.

I want to start by thanking everyone for the help I've received from this site with my many problems and questions, and that I think this question is in it's proper place, but may need to be moved.

I've been working for just about a year now for an elderly woman, age 88, in her garden. I mostly weed, water, and prune/cut shrubs back, along with the occasional planting of roses or other plants.

Before I started working for her, I asked if I would be around pesticides and/or herbicides. I believe that they are hazardous to my health, and I was told that I would not be working around them.

A few months ago, she started getting holes in her (large) lawn from some "critter", she could never remember the name so I never found out what they were, but she had her neighbor come over and spray the whole place. I felt pretty uncomfortable working there after that but I kept working anyways.

I showed up a few weeks ago, and she said she had called in an expert to spray the whole place AGAIN.

I haven't been back in a few weeks now, and I called her today and told her that I was really busy and she said that was fine, but I feel terrible that I can't work for her anymore. She's very old and I think she really liked the company and I don't know if she can work in her garden anymore if I'm not there to help here, but I'm very uncomfortable digging out weeds and breathing in dust that has been sprayed.

Has anyone been through anything like this before? Does anyone have any advice on what to do?
 
Matu Collins
Posts: 1976
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
69
bee books chicken forest garden fungi trees
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I have been in a few situations where people want to spray and I don't want to be around it. If I was in your situation I would be really clear with her. I would say I have done a lot of research into toxicity and I don't want to be in contact with chemicals.

Do you know what they sprayed? Some things are persistent in soil and some degrade quickly. There is a lot of toxicity info on the internet. I don't want to contact any poison, personally, but sometimes I've had to keep my wits about me and be practical when the choice is not mine.

You can see my learning process in this thread where I start by freaking out.
 
John Elliott
pollinator
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At age 88, I doubt that you are going to break down several decades of advertising "better living through chemistry". You can try, but as you have seen, when a problem crops up, the old ways are called upon to solve the problem.

If it was me, I would give up and find different clients to work for.
 
Matu Collins
Posts: 1976
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
69
bee books chicken forest garden fungi trees
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John Elliott wrote:At age 88, I doubt that you are going to break down several decades of advertising "better living through chemistry". You can try, but as you have seen, when a problem crops up, the old ways are called upon to solve the problem.

If it was me, I would give up and find different clients to work for.


Ah, I agree John, I would find new clients too. I was just saying that I would tell her why I couldn't work for her. Some people don't mind some exposure to the less toxic chemicals, and I do think it's good to know the details of what I'm up against, but I prefer zero poison.
 
Michael Vormwald
Posts: 154
Location: Central New York - Finger Lakes - Zone 5
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I'm not sure what gets sprayed for large holes in the lawn....gopher spray?!

I guess you just stop going there and if/when she calls you tell her you're uncomfortable working there now because of the chemicals (poisons) sprayed there. Or I guess you could call her? Too bad she didn't ask for your thoughts before having the spraying done...oh well.
 
Galadriel Freden
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Location: West Yorkshire, UK
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I think you should explain to her your concerns. Even use the "I'm very sensitive to sprays. I get a bad reaction from them" excuse. If you're giving up working for her, you should really just tell her so. She didn't spray to make you sick, and I think if she knew it would make you sick, she might not have. From what you say, it sounds like your visits are important to her!

If it were me, I would explain everything, and if she said she still might spray in the future, I would regretfully (and respectfully) tell her I would have to stop working for her. But if, after all the explaining was over, she promised it would not happen again, I would stay on. I think the exposure from two lots of spraying is not enough to terminate a relationship with a lonely old lady.
 
Nolan Robert
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I don't think I made myself clear enough.

Basically she's the elderly neighbor of my families friends. I've been working informally for her, once a week.

It's not really a "job" job, more like she can't garden on her own anymore and she needs someone to help out, and so she pays me for the help. (which is why I feel so bad too, because the last guy she had helping her just up and left, and I don't know if she'll be able to garden without me.)

She's sort of senile, and I don't know if she'll understand my explaining that I can't work anymore due to her spraying the yard. Same if I told her that if she did it again I couldn't work for her, I don't know if that would "compute", if you get me.

Blargh, I feel stuck. I hate feeling stuck.

Michael: I honestly have no clue what's going on other than she had someone spray. Pesticides maybe? Pepper spray?! No clue, and what makes it worse is that she doesn't know because she's really old and can't remember.

Galadriel: I think I'm going to opt for doing what you said. My main concern is, like I stated above, that I can't talk to her like most folks because she's somewhat "distant" due to her advanced age, and she wont be able to comprehend why I feel uncomfortable working around certain chemicals or what I'm even talking about.
 
Galadriel Freden
Posts: 353
Location: West Yorkshire, UK
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In this case, I think the human factor is the most important. Maybe when you talk to her you can talk about other solutions to her lawn problem that you could do yourself.

I also have an elderly widow neighbor who has no family nearby; and though she has made some more friends since, when her husband first died, my weekly visits were the only time she ever saw anybody.
 
Matu Collins
Posts: 1976
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
69
bee books chicken forest garden fungi trees
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If it was me and I had the time I'd tell her if she needs help, I'll do it. Then I'd figure out ways to solve problems without chemicals. I agree, the human factor takes precedence. Our elders need care and respect, and you obviously feel this.

I wonder if there is a way to find out who "helped" her with the spray. It does sound like talking to her about chemicals is a dead end. No need to confuse and worry her.
 
Nolan Robert
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O.K. new info, hope folks are still watching this thread:

I spoke to her "caretaker" (neighbor) Her neighbor didn't spray, she just set up bags of coyote urine rocks or something, to scare away the critters.

However she did have a pest control company some by and spray the yard and property line. She doesn't know what was sprayed.

I told her I have allergies to most insecticides/herbicides (don't we all?) and that I would like to know if she would be spraying again.

She said that they were supposed to have sprayed again this month, but that they didn't show, and that they were going to come next month, but now she'll have to see.

I'm worried they may have sprayed this month, but the neighbor didn't know, and the old lady is too out of it to know as well.
 
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