Dec. 31, 2007: A New Year's weekend at our friends' farmette in Western Illinois.
Inside the house: the mild-mannered beast pictured above, Snowy (var. giganticat).
Wild card: an assignment to clean out a barn apartment, recently rid of mice, full of our stuff in storage.
In my body: a histamine cascade extraordinaire just waiting to overreact to cat dander and mouse poo.
No net: As alcohol would be a feature of the weekend, my Benadryl was left at home.
In my pocket: two ounces of ambrosia artemisiifolia tincture.
(Cue cheesy movie preview baritone:) In a world of airborne allergens, a novice herbalist protects her right to copious champagne libations and vows to meet the millions of invisible enemies head-on. Her only hope? A little-known medicine made of what most would consider a noxious weed -- ragweed. Who will win?
Snowy is our friends' cross-eyed, pigeon-toed, probably arthritic, and most definitely fat, cat. Now before anyone wants to know why he's called "Snowy" and not "Blondie," I am assured by his owners that he was quite white when he was little. He's got to be over 20 pounds now, so "little" was a long, long time ago.
Despite his personality, which can most accurately be likened to that of the Simpsons' Comic Book Guy, Snowy has become a favorite for me. Let's be honest: that face could disarm anybody.
But I've never been able to pet Snowy or even spend much time near him because, like most cats, he sets off my allergies.
Some time in November, my friend Ben sent me a bottle of his own ambrosia (ragweed) tincture, in exchange for some fresh wild cherry bark I'd harvested for him. I looked up its indications, and found that it could be effective at reducing allergy symptoms (in my case, a river of mucous, itchy throat and eyes, blotchy skin, constricting airways, hoarse throat). That's right -- the weed we blame for hay fever is said to actually arrest its symptoms.
But before Snowy even hobbled out to greet us, we were to make some room in the barn for our hosts' herb business. Little did I know, mice had gotten into the clothes and boxes. I had a dust mask on, but before long I was having a hard time breathing, and my dust mask was functioning more as a snot cup.
I went back inside the house, washed my hands, and took two big hits of ambrosia. I made it a point to let it coat my throat. Now, make no mistake -- the stuff is by no means palatable (a lot of herbs aren't). But it was either that or misery, so tastebuds be damned.
Fairly quickly, my symptoms subsided -- particularly that closed-up, itchy throat. I got away from the really mousy areas and spent the rest of the afternoon going through some boxes in the barn's dusty attic/hayloft, and I was fine.
When we came in for dinner and a fire, Snowy trundled himself out for a snack, as did his much furrier but smaller friend, Pumpkin. All through our meal, anytime I felt my nose start getting stuffed up, or my throat getting itchy, I took another dropperful of ambrosia. As an extra measure of protection I brought my own pillowcases and sheets for the guest bedroom.
Result? A New Year's Eve holiday with dear friends where I wasn't literally itching to leave by the end.
Happy, healthy, 2008 everybody!