Deborah J. "DJ" Martin

A Witch and a Bitch with an Herbal Itch - and an overactive imagination

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Month: July 2016

The 3-Month Project

I love our deck. It’s 50′ x 10′ (spans the length of the house) and looks out on woods … and the garden, if you look down. Now that I’ve figured out how to not be bug lunch, I am thoroughly enjoying the evenings out there. The summer days, however, are another matter altogether. The deck gets over ten hours of direct sun and it gets toasty. I’ve always said that if I win the lottery, I want a retractable awning out there. A girl can dream.

We had to rebuild the floor this year – the stain simply could not keep up with all that exposure to the elements. (Which is why the floor is now a different color than the house – it needed a different kind of stain I couldn’t match to everything else. Sigh.)

While the contractor was working, the husband and I mused over how we could get more enjoyment out of it. I’d love to sit out there and write but as much as I like to be warm, not that warm! There was a large section that wasn’t being used – two people can only take up so much room.


There’s a 10×10 tent in the garage that’s no longer being used now that I’m not doing fairs and such. The deck is 10′ wide and it’s 10′ from the railing to the edge of the door. Perfect!

Once the contractor was done, we hauled the tent frame upstairs and tried to put it up. The deck is 10′ wide, yes, to the outside of the frame. Inside the railing & the “bulge” of the siding, it’s about 9’8″. Steel isn’t forgiving – it was a no-go.

If you know me at all, you know that once I set my mind to something, I’m going to get it done. I started searching for 9×9 tents. Did you know you can’t find an inexpensive 9×9 straight-leg canopy with a plain top that isn’t blue-tarp colored? Even those were well over $100. What’s a girl to do? Paint.

My tent started life looking like this:

pDSP1-17035853p275wEleven-plus cans of spray paint later, the top was a more sedate (and nonpartisan) green and the posts aren’t blaringly silver. We brought it from the driveway (the “painting room”) to the deck and put it up. It was about twenty inches short and blocked the door.

IMG_1156Looking through the door. Yeah, no.

So, back to the drawing board. Sort of. Yesterday, we cut four pieces of wood to raise the posts up. That was an adventure in itself – trying to get all four corners up & stable when the frame isn’t quite square.

IMG_1159Taken this morning. In another 3 hours, the tent will be all shade & you could almost fry an egg on the rest of the deck.

It’s not quite done. Once the posts have dried (they’re treated lumber), I’ll stain them the same dark brown as everything else. I want to dye the tie-downs a darker color, too. And next spring there will be a couple of planters with rue and perhaps some other herbs – not only to keep the flies away but hopefully the cats won’t destroy them.

Nonetheless, I finally have a place to sit outside and write or just enjoy the view with a cup of coffee – without the sizzle.

Bug Spray


For years (my entire life, actually) I have been bug lunch. I tried everything – even the icky commercial repellents didn’t work. I’ve always known I have a weird physiology but to not have a single one work? I had pretty much resigned myself to not being able to enjoy our deck in the evenings without slapping myself silly then spending the next week scratching bug bites.

Until…a friend from Alaska (where, like Minnesota, the mosquito is the unofficial state bird) suggested a combination of clove and yarrow. Now, neither of those individually had worked but at that point, I’d try anything.

So, I combined, then diluted tinctures of clove and yarrow. Skeptically, I sprayed it on earlier this year and went to sit by my husband on the deck one night. No bites. Not a single one!

That became my go-to bug spray. However, it didn’t do a damned thing to repel the flies (houseflies, deer flies, horse flies, fly-flies) that irritated me in the garden. Rue is the best fly repellent I know. So, I tinctured some rue and added it in. Tried the new combo this morning when I went out to the garden. Not only no bites but they didn’t even buzz my head!

So, my recipe:

A compound consisting of equal parts clove, rue and yarrow tinctures. Whatever amount you use of this compound, dilute it 1:1 with distilled water.

I use a fingertip sprayer like the one below that you can find in dollar stores. It mists rather than sprays.


Spray all exposed skin & for good measure, mist your hair, too. It smells strongly of clove and when this aroma disappears, it’s time to respray. Depending on what I’m doing, that’s about every hour or so.

Some people are sensitive to one or all of these herbs so please do a test before going hog-wild with the spray. I also wouldn’t use it on young children, whose skin is still rather delicate.

I can now enjoy the outdoors any time of the day or night without being driven batshit crazy by flying-and-biting critters!