Blogs > News-Herald Food and Travel

Food and travel captivate Janet Podolak, who chronicles both for The News-Herald. Get the back story of her three decades of stories here. Guest bloggers and fellow News-Herald staffers also periodically share details of their trips.

Monday, August 11, 2008

ankle deep in poison ivy

I was so anxious to see the bats fly into the night, that it never occurred to me that open-toed sandals were probably not the best footwear choice for a Geauga County meadow. And when I looked down I saw that I was ankle deep in poison ivy.

Photographer Michael Blair and I were at the bat condo behind Union Chapel in Newbury Township with Geauga Parks field naturalist Tami Gingrich. Once I saw the poison ivy I stood stock still, hoping not to damage the tender plants with my feet. I knew that it's the sap inside poison ivy stems and leaves that results in the awful rash and I knew that washing asap is the only prevention.

But I was hours away from being able to scrub my toes, heels, ankles and lower legs and washing the trousers that were brushing up against the leaves. We still had lots of work to do.

We learned that the bats love to live near wetlands, so they can get a drink as soon as they wake up. It was obvious by then that bats favorite food - mosquitoes - also love the same wetlands. I stopped counting at bite 25 and I refused to give in and scratch them. It was Tuesday evening and our deadline was the next day for the Sunday Community story. Read it at Click on Life on the menu at the top of the page then click through to Community.

As soon as I got home and googled poison ivy, I learned that it can be as long as 10 days after exposure before the rash begins. I also learned that the nasty sap can remain active on clothing for up to a year, so washing my trousers was an absolute must. I'm still rash free, but the 10-day mark isn't until later this week. My active imagination works overtime as I'm about the fall asleep and the itching starts. I know it's all in my head.

I'm sure Michael's imagination is also hard at work over his own bat encounter. We had both poked our heads and Michael's photo equipment into a bat filled outbuilding on an Auburn Township farm. Hundreds of bats were huddled in the rafters. But one took flight and let fly. The bat dung, called guano, caught Michael in the mouth.

It was disgusting.

My internet search later that night revealed that bat guano is one of the world's best fertilizers. It's also the only place where certain microbes live.

I'm eying my friend Michael to see if he's experiencing any changes. But I really don't want to think about it.


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