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We found 20 acres raw land, how to control ticks while we plan?

 
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We are very close to closing on 20 raw acres in eastern Oklahoma, land is mostly woods with a few small clearings. We are planning to have an access road cut and built, and a small 1/4 acre area cleared just inside the property so we have a place to hunker down and figure out our land over the year. Our question is how to control ticks in that area we initially clear. Guineas are just too noisy and we don't want to annoy our new neighbors (non of which are into permaculture), we'd like to avoid jumping into chickens immediately as we'll be away from the land quite a bit. We read somewhere that surrounding the area with a 3 ft pile of woodchips would create a barrier against them. Not sure about that. We may be able to have some of the limbs from trees in the access easement chipped after it's cleared if that really is a viable option. Anyone have any suggestions or advice?
 
pollinator
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Metarhizium anisopliae

Fungi that eat ticks.
Other species in the genus is used to control locust and mosquito, termite and thrips, Paul Stamens says they would be good for honey bee (mite killers).

https://extension.umaine.edu/ipm/tickid/tick-management/biological-control/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metarhizium_anisopliae
 
gardener
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I’m sorry, but I live in East Central Oklahoma and the short blunt answer is “good luck with that.”

Ticks are ubiquitous in this ecosystem.  Like spiders or ants. Can you imagine a strategy that would “control spiders” on a quarter acre that a permie could live with? That’s the ask. I don’t believe it’s possible. I’m not sure it’s even desirable; to me it sounds like “controlling birds” or “controlling grass.”  Sure you COULD, but would you want to live there by the time you had accomplished it?

Also, each time you enter the rest of your woods you will encounter many more ticks.

The good news is that tick disease isn’t quite as prevalent here as it is back east. I drown in ticks six months a year and have not had an infection after ten years of it.
 
pollinator
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I lived in the New Jersey pine barrens for many years, the home to zillions and zillions of ticks. We had 7 acres and about 3 dozen Guinea hens and a dozen chickens. The tick control we got from the birds was close to zero. We never saw them make a dent in the tick population. The only method that did help that was anything close to permaculture was training our Border Coliie to run circles in the underbrush, thus gathering hundreds of ticks on her fur. We then used a flea comb to remove the easy to find ticks, and kept a tick killing product on the dog to kill the ones that we missed. The tick nymphs were too small to be captured by the flea comb.

I don't know of anything permaculturalish that will help against ticks when you're not on the property........except a drought. We didn't see nearly as many ticks when things dried out for weeks. We tried all the old wives tales and folk lore, but none worked. And if you're in deer country, barriers won't work if the deer travel past them. Deer are grand spreaders of ticks.

We lived in a hotbed for Lyme disease. Hubby and I were the ONLY people in the area that didn't get it. We did twice a day full body searches for ticks, plus had a Basenji dog that was super at sniffing them out. He sometimes found nymphs that we missed. That dog hated ticks. He actually refused to walk into our woods because of the ticks.
 
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Guinea fowl are supposed to be good. I don't have any myself but have heard a fair bit of anecdotal evidence that they help control ticks.
 
Dan Boone
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"They say" that tick disease is most likely to be caught from a tick that latches on and goes undetected for multiple hours, or especially 24 hours or more.  This makes sense because in general, exposure to disease is not a binary "you were or you weren't" question, it's considered to be a question of viral or bacterial counts, with your risk of catching any given disease being somewhat proportional to the number of bacteria or viruses entering your system.  So a tick that gets a quick bite before being interrupted (removed) doesn't get a chance to pump very many disease pathogens into your system, making your chance of contagion minimal.  

I have this crackpot theory that my dozens and dozens of tick bites every year have functioned as a set of informal redneck live vaccinations against the tick diseases prevalent on my property.  I'm pretty good about checking for and removing ticks, but every now and then, one gets past me for some hours, or overnight, or until it gets engorged or dug in.  So I really ought to get sick.  But I don't.  My best theory is that constant repeated exposure to disease pathogens in very small numbers may have triggered immune responses and antibody production sufficient to provide protection on the occasions when a tick finally gets a chance to seriously deliver a solid pathogen load into my bloodstream.  

It's also the case that I have, in general, a very robust immune system.  So that might be the complete answer without my crackpot theory.  
 
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Dan Boone wrote:"They say" that tick disease is most likely to be caught from a tick that latches on and goes undetected for multiple hours, or especially 24 hours or more.  This makes sense because in general, exposure to disease is not a binary "you were or you weren't" question, it's considered to be a question of viral or bacterial counts, with your risk of catching any given disease being somewhat proportional to the number of bacteria or viruses entering your system.  So a tick that gets a quick bite before being interrupted (removed) doesn't get a chance to pump very many disease pathogens into your system, making your chance of contagion minimal.  

I have this crackpot theory that my dozens and dozens of tick bites every year have functioned as a set of informal redneck live vaccinations against the tick diseases prevalent on my property.  I'm pretty good about checking for and removing ticks, but every now and then, one gets past me for some hours, or overnight, or until it gets engorged or dug in.  So I really ought to get sick.  But I don't.  My best theory is that constant repeated exposure to disease pathogens in very small numbers may have triggered immune responses and antibody production sufficient to provide protection on the occasions when a tick finally gets a chance to seriously deliver a solid pathogen load into my bloodstream.  

It's also the case that I have, in general, a very robust immune system.  So that might be the complete answer without my crackpot theory.  



My father swears the same thing about becoming immune or at least resistant to tick diseases by constant exposure.  We have ticks everywhere spring and fall,  and as others have said,  the choice is live with them or move to where they don't live.  If you have grass around your house,  keeping it mowed short helps but venture into tall grass weeds or trees,  and you get them.
 
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I know a lot might think it's not the "permie thing to do" but controlled burns in the fall will def get them under control.
 
Dan Boone
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Lon Anders wrote:I know a lot might think it's not the "permie thing to do" but controlled burns in the fall will def get them under control.



That is not likely to be an option in Oklahoma after summer drought due to wildfire risk, formal burn bans, and the difficulty and expense of controlling the burn (as in, you may need to pay one or more fairly official fire crews to keep the burning where you need it if it’s not outright forbidden in a given year.). It’s almost certainly too big a job for two people and one garden hose to do safely.

It’s also in the category of drastic “solutions” up there with paving or graveling your property. As in, it will radically reduce habitat for all sorts of small things, including a few you didn’t want and a bunch that most permies do.

(In actual fact what suburban Okies generally do who are not permies is they fence their yards to keep dogs in, mow everything inside the fence down to one inch or shorter, and poison the fuck out of all the insect life inside the fenceline. This is expensive in lawn irrigation water, poison, and sickly children, but it makes a pretty lawn - no grubs to eat the roots - and keeps various bugs off the kids-n-dogs and out of the house. It’s like they used to say of the Romans: they make a desert, and call it peace.)
 
pollinator
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Dan Boone wrote:"They say" that tick disease is most likely to be caught from a tick that latches on and goes undetected for multiple hours, or especially 24 hours or more.  



I feel them moving and drop them into little screw-top jars with some water in the bottom that I keep handy during tick season. I've never had any illnesses from them.

One thing I have noticed is that my older horses seem to first get some that get engorged, but then pretty quickly any ticks that get on them dry out and die instead of getting engorged and dropping off. My theory is that a healthy horse defeats the ticks, which limits their reproduction.

Over time, the two younger horses which originally had a ton of ticks started killing off any that got on them in the same manner. But a sickly horse (or dog, puppy, kitten, etc.) gets some benefit from the ticks and until they don't need them anymore, they drop off and multiply. I doubt there is any research showing why this would be so, but think about it.

If you're a believer, why would Our Creator create something with no beneficial purpose? When I was younger, I thought the first question I wanted to ask was why mosquitoes. But most people realize that they will eat some people alive, but not touch other people in the same vicinity. There must be a good reason for that.

So eat better. Feed your animals better. Learn to avoid the worst exposures (think chiggers and ants, for example). And as you (and they) get healthier, you'll have less issues with annoying insects. That, and get ducks, chickens, or guineas to keep their numbers down. Diatomaceous earth can also help.  

Cowboys in Texas would duct tape the bottom of their pants legs and powder them with sulphur. So if they really bother you, try that. Be careful what you try, though. I read that tea tree oil would repel them. When i tried that, it was like nectar to them and they crawled on me 10x worse than normal. So test before assuming something will work.
 
Dan Boone
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I pull too many off me and my dogs every day to give them much special handling. If they are still mobile, they go on a piece of sticky tape (to immobilize) and into the trash. If engorged, they get folded in a twist of paper towel with enough force to disrupt, then likewise binned.

Honestly sometimes the bigger ones just get cracked with a fingernail and flung across the room in disgust, especially if they wake me up migrating across my face on the way to my scalp.
 
              
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Dan Boone wrote:I pull too many off me and my dogs every day to give them much special handling. If they are still mobile, they go on a piece of sticky tape (to immobilize) and into the trash. If engorged, they get folded in a twist of paper towel with enough force to disrupt, then likewise binned.

Honestly sometimes the bigger ones just get cracked with a fingernail and flung across the room in disgust, especially if they wake me up migrating across my face on the way to my scalp.



You ought to be careful. My father had a tick attach to his belly many years ago. He did not notice until it was engorged and somewhat burrowed in. He pulled it off but unfortunately the mouth pieces stayed burrowed in. They got infected and his body started treating them as a foreign body. Lots of redness, swelling, fever etc. - months of antibiotics etc. Wasn't pretty...
 
pollinator
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Opossums turn out to be amazingly efficiently tick control agents, and probably native to your area too!  Maybe you can encourage their presence on your land.

https://www.caryinstitute.org/newsroom/opossums-killers-ticks
 
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In this article of parasitipedia, many examples are shown. Especially interesting are the explanation as to why some ways only work in the laboratory and not in field conditions. Except the opossums, all the tricks mentionned above and many more are discussed.

https://parasitipedia.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2662&Itemid=3037
 
Ed Martinaise
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Thanks everyone for the advice and suggestions. We completely recognize that we will never eradicate ticks, we're simply looking for a way to sit in the newly cleared area for some months and maybe reduce our exposure while there with no house or anything.....at least do something I guess. Sounds like keeping it relatively clear of tall grass, treat our clothing, encourage opossums (we already know about possum boxes and attracting, we have them at our current place and love them), and probably most importantly, really good tick checks every day. We may try a bit of sulphur dosing in spring to see if that helps as well. Again, thanks for the suggestions!
 
Dan Boone
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Phil Gardener wrote:Opossums turn out to be amazingly efficiently tick control agents, and probably native to your area too!  Maybe you can encourage their presence on your land.

https://www.caryinstitute.org/newsroom/opossums-killers-ticks



What that article and others like it tell us is that oppossums eat a lot of ticks.

That’s not at all the same thing as being effective at controlling tick populations.

I have not seen any reports that tick problems are appreciably reduced by having lots of oppossums around. Certainly we do, and they are welcome. But they have not dented the tick populations!
 
Su Ba
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Dan, that's my same observation. In the NJ woods we had plenty of opossum, raccoon, bobcat, rabbits, fox. They all were small animals that walked through the brush, and all are noted to be good body groomers. We also had over a dozen outdoor cats on that 7 acres and seldom found ticks on them, thus I assume that they ate most of the ones that got on them. Even so, the property was loaded with ticks. Perhaps the animals snagged the low ticks, but ones higher up in the brush were still there waiting in ambush. The deer also crossed the property daily. According to our local hunters, the deer had a lot of ticks on them. Thus I'm assuming that engorged pregnant ticks routinely dropped off and thus laid eggs.

We never fogged or sorted the underbrush with insecticides. By far the best control was the Border Collie. Once we hit ulon this idea, the tick pressure decidedly dropped. I was able to go into the wooded areas to collect firewood, plant wildfires, etc without coming back covered in ticks.
 
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This thread makes my tiny urban lots seem rather pleasant.
Constant assault by ticks seems nightmarish.

I am curious,  the OP mentions noise bothering the neighbors.
I would think not having to worry what the neighbors think would be one of the reasons to move to 20 acres of wild land.
 
              
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William Bronson wrote:This thread makes my tiny urban lots seem rather pleasant.
Constant assault by ticks seems nightmarish.

I am curious,  the OP mentions noise bothering the neighbors.
I would think not having to worry what the neighbors think would be one of the reasons to move to 20 acres of wild land.



I have 32 acres and I can hear most of my neighbors business, the house is in the front of the property towards the road. For some reason most houses in Virginia, never mind the size of acreage, are built almost right on the road. With my 100ft driveway I am actually quite set back compared to others and compared to the many homes we looked at when we were looking for our forever farm.
 
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We have lots of ticks around here and I don't think there is any way to eradicate them. Short grass and trimming branches etc...in the yard (because ticks will drop out of trees) does help. But the other thing is baby ticks are REALLY small, like flakes of pepper, and they don't stay attached. They feed and drop off and then feed on another host (which is how the diseases get spread). Many never know they were bitten by baby ticks. I believe the ones that stay attached and swell up are the pregnant females that are full of eggs.


Trace Oswald wrote:
My father swears the same thing about becoming immune or at least resistant to tick diseases by constant exposure.  We have ticks everywhere spring and fall,  and as others have said,  the choice is live with them or move to where they don't live.  If you have grass around your house,  keeping it mowed short helps but venture into tall grass weeds or trees,  and you get them.



Yes I agree with that. Though I suspect some are naturally resistant/immune and it may not be about exposure leading to acquired immunity. A few years ago one of my dogs became very seriously ill with a tick borne disease and it caused me to do a lot of research. Long story short apparently many dogs test positive for tick borne diseases that they never became ill from even though some, like Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever cause severe and often fatal illness in both dogs and people. My dog tested positive for 3 different tick diseases and never showed symptoms of any of them (she was actually suffering from a muscle eating protozoa that is spread by ticks).

While there is a fair amount of testing done on dogs (because it is faster/cheaper) there is very little testing done on people unless they are actually sick, so if lots of people get exposed and have antibodies for various tick borne diseases that they never became ill it is quite possible no one knows.
 
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Dan Boone wrote:

Lon Anders wrote:I know a lot might think it's not the "permie thing to do" but controlled burns in the fall will def get them under control.



That is not likely to be an option in Oklahoma after summer drought due to wildfire risk, formal burn bans, and the difficulty and expense of controlling the burn (as in, you may need to pay one or more fairly official fire crews to keep the burning where you need it if it’s not outright forbidden in a given year.). It’s almost certainly too big a job for two people and one garden hose to do safely.



I live right against the National Forest. Everyone burns here and some of us burn in the woods with nothing more than a rake and some courage. Yes, it's nerve racking the first few times, burning an acre of woods in the middle of tens of thousands of acres of woods, but you get used to it somewhat. I've tried just pushing the leaves off but that didn't do much. All I did was relocate the bugs.

Get a metal leaf rake and put a metal handle on it. Rake a 4-5 foot side border around the area you want to burn. Start out with small areas until you get used to it. Rake away from the base of trees if you don't want all your trees to be blackened at the bottom and that doesn't go away for years. Pick a day with 3-5 mph wind with no gusts to speak of. I do around the house first, then do larger areas further out and do the South side when the wind is out of the South. That way it's burning towards the house/yard where I've already burnt.

The first summer we spent here, every evening, we looked like a family of monkeys pulling bugs off of each other, except that we didn't eat the bugs. We decided that's no way to live.

Where I've burned, all sorts of new growth came up and we've got a lot more variety of birds here now. Never saw a cardinal or blue jay until we got rid of some leaves and got green stuff growing.  

I kind of did it out of necessity to a point. The predominate wind here is out of the South, SW or West. I have a neighbor that owns to the South, SW and West and he's a carefree burner. A few years before we moved here, he lit the woods on fire and went to town. They had fire trucks, dozers and a helicopter out here. The fire went right up to other neighbor's yards. So as a preventative measure, I started burning as early in the Spring as possible to create a fire break. He doesn't seem to burn any more so I decreased the area that I burn. Just the places I walk frequently. Maybe 1 acre out of 15.5. There's grassy areas that I don't burn, I mow and once I get some four legged critters, I won't have to hardly do that.

The 15 is actually two pieces, the 8 we've had for 7 years and the adjacent 7.5 acres we just bought a few months ago. I need to cut some trees down on the 7.5 so some sun can get in there, and then I'll burn that spot. 1/2 - 1 acre and I'll probably do it in 2-4 sections, maybe more once the day comes. Nothing but woods in every direction. I might just tow my water tank back there.

I also have a wet weather creek/gully that I want to burn so I can get some flat rocks out of it and maybe build a little waterfall or two. I have other gullies here because of the old road from 100ish years ago before it was even county easement. Coming up a hill, one spot would get too bad to drive so they'd pick a new path right next to it. I rake leaves down in those gullies, up where it's level and burn them in there. Sort of contains them. I burnt further down on the hill one year but won't do that again, nor any area like it. Really rocky and I lost what little humus there was plus some topsoil. I'm going to throw some kind of seed on it because it has recurring bare spots now.

I don't burn in the fall because I don't want the ground to be bare all winter. Shortly after burning in the Spring, stuff will grow and help hold the top soil in place. I did that hill the year after that neighbor had a big enough fire to get the Forest Service out there with dozers and a helicopter again. They kept it on his property unlike the former time.  

As for environmentally, I don't think I make much more smoke a year than using a woodstove for 2-3 weeks. As far as permieness, I'm burning most places for 1-3 years and then it's into grass, forbs, weeds and legumes. We'll be getting a breeding pair/trio of goats and Kunekune pigs this year and as they multiply, I'll keep chipping away at forest, converting it to pasture. I'll always have half the property in trees as that much area is either too steep or too rocky for pasture and even in the level areas, I'll have shade trees so I'll always have plenty of leaves for putting into the garden.
 
Lon Anders
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Dan Boone wrote: It’s also in the category of drastic “solutions” up there with paving or graveling your property. As in, it will radically reduce habitat for all sorts of small things, including a few you didn’t want and a bunch that most permies do.



It's not as radical or drastic as the process that a lot of permies do. A lot of permies bring in excavators, bulldozers, etc and completely destroy the land by digging it up and killing everything, then they build it back the way they want.  A small burn is not as drastic or radical as bringing in earth moving equipment and tearing up a few acres.

I've spent a life "living in the woods". I think I could easily say I've spent more time in the woods over my 49 years than probably anyone on this site. I was raised on 85 acres that backed up to 15K acres of National Forest, started "digging roots" for spending money by the age of 10 and was turned loose with a gun at age 12 to hunt. I lived in the woods, by the age of 12 I was grabbing a gun and heading into the woods for 2-3 days at a time by myself, would sleep in a cave/overhang and take a squirrel, rabbit, etc and cook it up over a fire and sleep there by myself for the weekend. Parents were hippies and moved "back to the country" in the early 70s with me in tow.  We controlled burn every 3-5 yrs on our place which consisted of 3-5 acres of woods that surrounded our 2-3 acres or so of yard, garden, pond, etc and we never had a tick problem. We didn't do these burns to get rid of ticks, these burns were done to get rid of fuel in case of a forest fire...the tick problem was a side benefit.

Controlled burns or even wildfires may look bad on the surface but Native Americans were doing them regularly.  You'd be surprised of the life that comes back the next spring after controlled burns. Millions upon millions of seeds are laying there waiting for their chance to see sunlight. Before man showed up those seeds would more than likely get there chance on a regular basis.

I'm in Middle TN, we also experience drought conditions here regularly.  We also have no burn periods during drought conditions but can always call during that period and obtain a burn permit. It's a simple phone call, they issue you a permit number (free) and they notify your local fire dept that your property will be doing a burn on that day. The fire dept does not show up but they have been alerted.  


At the end of the day I have 3 kids which are free range kids.  They live the majority of their life on 5-8 acres immediately around our house that is in the middle of 600+ acres of woods. I refuse to see them subjected to lyme disease, copperheads, rattlesnakes, etc so I control the 5-8 acres around the house. It's not my kid's choice to live this lifestyle and I will do whatever needs to be done for their safety and the safety of my home (losing it to a forest fire).

If your property were my property and I was going to establish a place to stay there, then I'd look at it and say "OK I am going to identify 2-5 acres around my homesite that will be used for yard, gardens, food forest, etc" and I'd control burn it in small sections. Your tick population would be drastically reduced for 3-5 years.  Ash from the controlled burn is equivalent to adding lime to your soils.  New life would emerge from all the seeds laying there just waiting for their chance to come to life.  If you have a tractor you could easily till or clear out a fire break. I'd start small with 1/4 acre or so at a time and I'd beat the ticks back 100 yards or so in all directions from where I was going to be spending the majority of my time.  The rest of the property would have established trails that are used. I'd first bush hog them then cut them with the mower on a regular basis.  

I'm just simply amazed how the permie community is against controlled burns. Long before we ever showed up on this big rock there were forest fires happening on a consistent basis. I look at fires as a natural occuring process of life here on earth. Only since we humans showed up did we try to control them.  If you look to California we didn't do a very good job at controlling them and should have been burning the fuel in order to make it not so drastic or radical of a loss when it does burn.

To note:  Ticks were nothing compared to our biggest problem even though we'd all end up with 5-20 on us from being outside when first purchased this place. Our biggest problem was the dreaded chigger. It was nothing for my very young kids and wife to end up with 20-30 chigger bites after being outside for the day. You probably don't have to deal with chiggers like we do in the south. Chigger bites are so bad that you might as well not plan on sleeping for the next 10 days due to the welts, itching, and over all miserable time that you are going to have dealing with the bites over the next 10-14 days.  

I refuse to be miserable living this lifestyle so I burn when needed. The deer and other critters appreciate it due to all the new green browse that comes up where there was nothing but invasive plants dominating the land. My family can enjoy being outside every day, and I know that when the next forest fire comes rolling by that my home, guest cabin, sheds, barns, etc will not be lost.


 
Lucrecia Anderson
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John Paulding wrote:
The first summer we spent here, every evening, we looked like a family of monkeys pulling bugs off of each other, except that we didn't eat the bugs. We decided that's no way to live.  



Good lord! Were you walking through tall grass and brush all day? If the grass is short ticks shouldn't be that bad.
 
Su Ba
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<<<I'm just simply amazed how the permie community is against controlled burns.>>>

I'm not against controlled burns at all. I have a good friend who is a volunteer fireman, and she goes crazy at the thought of anyone starting a fire. She highly disapproves of my outdoor rocket stove that I use for cooking. But I can see her point of view, most people are stupid and stupid people start fires that get away from them thus burning down houses and vast acreage. Case in point, we had a fire down the road from us that was intentionally set as a burn off but the neighbor decided to go indoors and make his lunch, leaving the small fire unattended. Of course he swore he only left it for 2 minutes.....sure, we all believed that...yeah. That fire ended up damaging several buildings and homes and destroying a house, sadly not his own.

Most open burning is banned around me unless you have a permit from the fire department. Those permits are difficult to get because the wind and dryness interferes. And they are costly because you have to have a fire truck on site during the burn and after the burn (hotspots often reignite a day later). So nobody does it anymore. The pastures here were a lot safer (that is, not a fire hazard) and more productive when burning was the practice. But then again, there weren't as many houses around back then. If a pasture fire jumped the fence to the next door neighbor's, it wasn't a disaster. Nowadays it would burn somebody's house down.

 
Dan Boone
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Lon Anders wrote:I'm in Middle TN, we also experience drought conditions here regularly.  We also have no burn periods during drought conditions but can always call during that period and obtain a burn permit. It's a simple phone call, they issue you a permit number (free) and they notify your local fire dept that your property will be doing a burn on that day. The fire dept does not show up but they have been alerted.



This is a thread about Oklahoma, where burn bans are absolute.  When the burn ban is on, you are not allowed to burn.  Period, end of sentence.  It is illegal.  And I was responding to a recommendation to do fall burns, when drought conditions are most common, and bans are frequent.  The fall is a bad time to burn in Oklahoma.  Especially since there's no chance for new growth to spring up to protect the soil from erosion during winter storms.  It may be different where you are, but those are the circumstances here.   The dust bowl is still within living memory here.

Controlled burns in general have a lot to recommend them, especially as a forestry management practice.  Here in Oklahoma, for instance, we struggle with the spread of Eastern Red Cedar due to the lack of forest forest fires, and controlled burning is one of the recommended management practices.  Typically done in the spring, with a lot of help from local fire control agencies.  Done on a small scale without backup only by the sort of people who define "redneck truculence" and don't give a shit about the safety of their neighbors.  Remember, Oklahoma is where "the wind comes whipping down the plains."  Even the smallest fire can get away from you in moments if a wind front comes through unexpectedly.  

But I stand by my assertion that it's a drastic step for managing insects and arthropods.  It disrupts soil life, rodents, lizards, snakes, basically the entire ecosystem and community of small things that burrow in the soil and live among the roots and stems of plants.  It has a lot in common with tillage in this.  I'm not telling anybody to do it or not do it, but I don't think "drastic" is a difficult word to defend here.  
 
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Ticks are spiders, just tiny little arthropods at the end of the day.
In many cases, their natural prey are immune to their toxins, which can be lethal to a human or pet.
A tick-bite reaction in the wrong place can be deeply upsetting.
But it's easy to be vigilant, just checking armpits and legs regularly is sufficient.
After a few bad experiences, it's easier to notice them walking up your limbs (seeking out the warm, moist places).

Ticks are preyed upon by ants, spiders and birds. Fungi, nematodes and wasps are being investigated as biological controls.
A helpful fact is that ticks can 'smell' a passing animal by the CO2 they exhale, so if you identify a hotspot (bottlebrush and wattles are tick-havens in Oz) a little controlled breathing can allow you to escape detection.

As was mentioned, they can drop from trees, so cleared ground in the shade may not be safe.
Also, if you live near a cattle-spray yard, be prepared for hordes of ticks migrating away from the yard after each spray.

I don't think it's pragmatic to mow acreage just so you can insulate you and yours from these lilliputian insects.
This is nature. Sometimes it bites. Not all of it is for us.
 
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Gail Gardner wrote: When I was younger, I thought the first question I wanted to ask was why mosquitoes. But most people realize that they will eat some people alive, but not touch other people in the same vicinity. There must be a good reason for that.



I am one of those -- the only time mosquitoes ever bite me is when I am alone. If there is anyone else around, mosquitoes leave me alone in favor of the other person. I have no idea why that is.

As to ticks, I do not know whether the same pattern holds. I remember only one summer in which I had multiple ticks latch on, and it was so many years ago, I can't think now what (if anything) I did differently that year. I may be a person ticks don't like very much. But for what it is worth, I do pretty much the opposite of the usual tick advice. You won't catch me tramping around in summer with my pants tucked into my socks, unless there is a lot of poison ivy or poison oak. I wear shorts -- short ones. And I look down at my legs frequently while outside, and I flick away the ticks while they are still climbing. This worked in eastern North Carolina anyway.

On one of those North Carolina trails, I came upon a man with a white cloth tied to the end of a stick. He said he was "dragging for ticks," as he ran the cloth through the tall grass. Presumably, the ticks latch on to the cloth, and he can then destroy them all at once.

That same year, I was treating my dog with a botanical tick preventative, based on peppermint oil. He didn't like application day -- he would roll around on the floor afterward, as if trying to rub it off -- but he didn't get any ticks that year, either.
 
Dan Boone
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Jondo Almondo wrote:I don't think it's pragmatic to mow acreage just so you can insulate you and yours from these lilliputian insects.
This is nature. Sometimes it bites. Not all of it is for us.



I agree with most of this!  We have forty fairly wild acres.  We aren't interested in leveling it, cutting every tree, and keeping it mowed in short grass, nor do we have the money or equipment we'd need to do that.  

So instead we have mostly forest.  There are some former pasture areas, and I keep some of them a bit open, and my dogs and I exercise in them daily, and there's fruit and nut trees wild and domestic.  I have garden bits and forage areas and various resources that I collect, harvest, and use.  Not to put to fine a point on it, but most of the acreage gets left alone most of the time, except sporadically when I go out and wallow in it.  

The dogs and I get bit.  A lot.  By the thorny things (honey locust, osage orange, greenbriar, rose) no less than the bugs.  

Whacking back enough of that ecosystem to suppress the ticks in any meaningful way across the footprint that the dogs and I regularly use would have secondary ecological effects that are unimaginable to me.  And it would take inputs (money, time, effort, petroleum, machinery, fire, poison) on a scale that dwarfs any formulation of "the tick problem" as I conceive it.  Basically I keep my hair short, I shower frequently, I check myself, I groom myself and my dogs well, and that's it.  We get bit some. It's not the end of the world.  I grew up on the Yukon; the mosquitoes and noseeums were worse.

We do of course have to keep some areas groomed around the house as a fire protection measure.  But not super short.  Super short means the soil bakes and cracks in the late summer and there's major earthworm mortality.  We leave it tall enough for short wildflowers, white clover, and bees.
 
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Dan Boone wrote about fire:

It disrupts soil life, rodents, lizards, snakes, basically the entire ecosystem and community of small things that burrow in the soil and live among the roots and stems of plants.


So it sounds like the best time to burn would be when these animals are in hibernation, i.e. winter? Perhaps late winter when spring is on the way?
 
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denise ra wrote:Dan Boone wrote about fire:

It disrupts soil life, rodents, lizards, snakes, basically the entire ecosystem and community of small things that burrow in the soil and live among the roots and stems of plants.


So it sounds like the best time to burn would be when these animals are in hibernation, i.e. winter? Perhaps late winter when spring is on the way?



When would be the best time for you to suffer a house fire?

I think that burning over entire ecosystems to get at one undesirable element is excessive to the problem.  Obviously opinions differ, though.  But please don't ask me to opine on the best time to do a thing that I don't think is proportionate.
 
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Ticks do not drop from trees. Deer ticks climb grasses and shrubs and wait for a mammal to come along, usually at the height of their favored host such as a dog or deer.

https://nysipm.cornell.edu/sites/nysipm.cornell.edu/files/shared/documents/tick-FAQ-list.pdf

“Do ticks fly? Jump? Drop from trees?
No, no, and no. Ticks crawl and can climb vegetation. However, they do not have wings, do not have jumping legs, and are not behaviorally adapted to drop from trees on passing hosts (think of the tim- ing and energy that would require!). When ticks find a host, they tend to crawl upward, which is why attached ticks are often found in armpits, behind the ears, and at the base of the scalp.”
 
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I think burning in some area is little different than the other things we do to control our environment.
It's not a persistent poison.
It can get away from you.
It does have down sides.
I crush roaches, trap rats, and murder flies in my house and yard.
This effects my local environment.
If I could burn the rats away,  I would.
Illegal or irresponsible burning are different,  for obvious reasons.

 
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Some ecosystems are fire-adapted.  Arguably they require periodic fire for maximum ecosystem health.  

But it's virtually impossible for humans to mimic the frequency, duration, temperatures, and intensities of those natural burns.  The burns we conduct -- protective of our own structures and interests foremost -- inevitably get too many of those factors wrong.  With the result that whatever ecological good we are trying to accomplish is wiped out by the damages that we do, and we're lucky if the human goals we have are met without a whole bunch of unforseen collateral ecological damage.  

I shall not be easy to convince that we can step out into our yards with a flame weeder and a rake and garden hose and do anything but, on balance, a bunch of net harm.  Did we resolve a specific vermin issue?  Awesome.  But what cascading impacts did we have on the soil web, on the pollinators, on the dragonflies, on the earthworms, on the butterflies, on the fungal hyphae in our orchard?  We'll never know.  But every permaculturalist knows these things are all tied together.
 
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> impossible to mimic... natural burns

I  have as low an opinion of general human responsibility quotient as anyone might not wish to hear. And Murphy lives amoung us. So perhaps that leads to the following thought: The above seems a very broad statement and I wonder if it might be a prophylactic adjuration to try to discourage idiots from running up the disaster bill. Which I kinda support. But I also support knowing facts and good science when possible. IOW, the larger story.

What is known about the requirements for a good thorough effective burn for an ecosystem? It seems like an important detail. Wouldn't  want to take the risks and drip the sweat and not get the full benefits possible.  I seem to recall that certain trees out west require fire at a certain elevated temperature in order to make their seeds sprout. But that read was a long, long time ago. Haven't a clue at this point. Eastern eco systems might different processes.

Dan? Anybody?


Regards,
Rufus
 
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If using fire, a natural process, has too many unpredictable downsides, what doesn't?
Everytime we make any changes we alter the ecosystem.
A system of swales will make more impact longer than controlled burning.
Every see a  chicken run?
Barren, devoid of life, and slow to recover.


Seasonal burning as described, is like digging a hole in the Sahara.
The effects will disappear, as life from outside the burn area recolonises.
If not,  the effects of one burn would last forever , so there wouldn't be a reason to burn again.
If we should treat periodic burning as a horrible thing,  we should also give up living in houses.
Houses change the ecosystem of the space where they are built.
We intentionally erradicate life and effect barriers to prevent it from returning.
We erect roofs, which turn the land under them into deserts.
Even when left unmaintained,  our buildings last decades before nature can reclaim that land.
We are told that well built natural building will do this.
We do this for our own comfort, houses are not necessary.
Not all of nature is for us, maybe building a house is too much of an impact.


Burning is a less drastic change over a larger area.
Burned areas regrow.
If they are right next to unburned areas, it happens faster
I'd wager a burned area recovers quicker than an area  sculpted into a lake or pond.
Hard for most terrestrial plants to grow under water.



If burning is bad because we do it to suit our own needs,  so is everything else that changes the environment.
After all, we don't know what the long term effects are.
Encouraging possums might screw songbirds.
Digging a swale might cause a spring to erupt, leading to increased mosquito reproduction.
Plant an orchard, encourage deer.
Plant walnuts and you will poison the area with juglone for as long as those trees live, plus what about their offspring?




On another note,  do ticks swim?
If not,  I'm thinking MOAT.
No fire involved,  plenty of utility,  and it's just plain cool.
 
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Rufus Laggren wrote:The above seems a very broad statement and I wonder if it might be a prophylactic adjuration to try to discourage idiots from running up the disaster bill.



When I say it's "virtually impossible for humans to mimic the frequency, duration, temperatures, and intensities of...natural burns" is that a broad statement? Yes, I'll cop to that.  I should hasten to add that it's my somewhat hyperbolic way of introducing an opinion, albeit an opinion that I am basing on a lot of ecological reading over a lot of years.  

Nonetheless I believe it to be true.  I'm certainly open to counter-arguments, if they engage with the ecological complexities of concern.  Arguments from history ("so and so used to use fire as a management tool in some other place and context") and arguments from custom ("everybody around here does it") and arguments from aesthetics ("my yard is pretty and green after I do it") don't engage those complexities sufficiently to change my mind.  

Rufus Laggren wrote:What is known about the requirements for a good thorough effective burn for an ecosystem?



We know that ecosystems adapted to natural wildfires are disrupted when humans interfere with the natural wildfire cycle.  Fires become less common, but due to fuel buildup, they are hotter when they do happen.  But the details we would need, to simulate a natural wildfire cycle in our own yards with a series of controlled burns?  Those details are not known, possibly not knowable -- because natural wildfire cycles varied considerably within a set of parameters that has never been measured and would be very difficult to measure with that level of granularity.  You'd have to "let burn" a lot of wildfires just to take the measurements -- a lot of wildfires in each different ecosystem type of interest -- and we don't even have enough uninhabited acreage where we could do that.  Plus, the data from the first couple of wildfire cycles would be contaminated by the fuel buildup from 100 years of fire suppression, so the experiments would take decades of "let burn" hands-off observation.  Nobody is doing that in most of the ecosystem types where people are living.
 
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William Bronson wrote:
Every see a  chicken run?
Barren, devoid of life, and slow to recover.



That's pretty much the point I have been trying to make about burning.  Thank you.

It's a thing you do only if it's going to be effective at accomplishing an important goal, and even then you try to minimize the affected area, you do it only if you don't have a better way (like, say, chicken tractors).  Because it's a drastic alteration with serious negative consequence, not to be undertaken lightly.
 
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Dan Boone wrote:I don't think "drastic" is a difficult word to defend here.  



When one equates a low temperature controlled burn as being just as "drastic" as paving or graveling an area then it is indeed a difficult word to defend in that context.


 
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