North Dakota, as of late, has gone through the sudden transition from winter to spring. Judging by the forecast, spring will last, give or take, 10 minutes before the heat of summer moves in.
Our winter, while not overly hard, seemed exceptionally long this year, probably because the snow started in October and lasted into May. That makes these days of mild temperatures, sunshine, green grass and blooms on the trees all the more precious. Before we know it, many of us (me, in particular) will be complaining about oppressive heat and humidity.
But beneath all the pleasant springiness hides the dark side of the season.
We knew this was going to be a bad tick season when our daughters spotted one after playing outside in early April. The temperatures still regularly were dipping below freezing — sometimes far below freezing — but the creepy little fellows were vibrant and active and sticking to skin and clothes.
Now that the conditions outside have moved into more pleasant territory, we’re spending more time outside. And that seems to mean spending more time when we come back in the house searching for and disposing of ticks.
We’ve found them on our clothes as we clean up for the night and crawling on our skin. One day, my daughters must have run straight from playing outside to snuggling stuffed animals, and a tick apparently transferred itself to an unsuspecting puppy. It was hard enough to pull off that the little guy obviously thought he was going to score something other than stuffing from the toy.
It is unfortunate, I believe, that veterinary science has come up with a medication to keep ticks off dogs for a month at a time but human medicine has not yet done the same for humans. My girls and I will douse on bug spray, when we remember. But it’s hard for a couple of adventurous little girls to wait to get sprayed down before they run for the swingset or the good climbing trees.
Over Memorial Day weekend, my older daughter and her cousin yielded to the allure of the tree rows, exploring the closest thing we have in central North Dakota to a forest. I could hear them in there, rustling through leaves and playing with fallen branches. I could tell they were having fun, but each smile at their antics was followed by a small cringe at what might be coming out with them.
I’d remind them once in a while, “Remember — ticks.” And they’d say, “We know,” and go right back to playing.
Now, neither of them likes ticks. My daughter especially can get herself very worked up when she spots one on her in any situation. But their fear or distaste for the little creatures was not going to keep them from enjoying the day. The sun was shining. The wind was as close to still as we’d experienced for weeks. It was warm enough to be working and playing without coats. And a few little ticks were not going to stop them from exploring.
The little buggers, of course, can cause all sorts of diseases, and I ponder on the people who have found themselves becoming allergic to meat after a tick bite. But even that horrible thought won’t keep us inside.
There are too many tree rows to explore, too many fences to be checked in the pastures and too much fun to be had in our too-short springs and summers to be afraid of what lurks outside. We’ll grab the bug spray when we remember and we’ll inspect ourselves upon coming in. And we’ll enjoy the pleasant days as long as they last.
Jenny Schlecht is Agweek's content manager. She lives on a farm and ranch in Medina, N.D., with her husband and two daughters. She can be reached at email@example.com or 701-595-0425.