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Somewhere about July 14th I was trying to finish spreading my crazy enormous pile of mulch (like we’re talking 12-15 cubic yards). I had covered every square inch of the gardens and there was some leftover, so I decided to tackle the south side of my neighbor’s garage, which they ignore completely but which I must look at through the largest window in my house. Weed trees and belladonna and plantain (the weed, not the banana) and other weeds had run rampant. There was an elm that was already two stories high, which I decided to keep as a replacement for the giant sugar maple we had to cut down last year. There was a black walnut sapling that had to go. And the English Ivy was stretching and reaching across our driveway, intent on eating it on the way to our house.

ENOUGH!

If they won’t care for it, I will. So I starting to trim and pull and dig and lop and edge and mulch. And all was looking very nice. I got about halfway done when the manuscript I was listening to came to the end and I needed to get back to work inside.

The next day, I saw them. Angry red bumps that swiftly bloated to taut, bulbous blisters. I puzzled over this. There was no juniper in there (I’m allergic to juniper). There was the elm that I trimmed. Perhaps I was allergic to that? I’d seen elm on the list of things my son had recently been tested for allergies. Since we were off to camp later that week, I went to the urgent care.

“Were you in contact with poison ivy?”

“No. I haven’t been in the woods and my yard is all cultivated and I know exactly what’s in there and I don’t have poison ivy. There was my neighbor’s weedy area, but there’s no poison ivy in there.”

Steroids. Calamine lotion. And home to look up poison ivy.

Oh.

Yep. I was in contact with poison ivy. I’d never, in 34 years of romping through forests, encountered it. I thought the leaves were much smaller. But there it was.

So…three weeks later, I’m still itching and pretty miserable.

Do yourself a favor and avoid this:

Also, it feels like maybe there’s a lesson in here about minding my own business and not meddling and not needing everything outside to be perfect…

But there’s also a lesson for neglectful property owners in here about taking care of your yard and not exasperating and infecting your neighbor with poisonous weeds.