Migraines without meds: Ketogenic diet and intermittent fasting for prevention, plus comfort techniques

Instead of going to work today, I’m lying on the couch with an ice pack and heated rice snake, recovering from an increasingly rare migraine headache.  Although I get FAR fewer migraines than I used to (now I get one that lasts less than 24 hours once every couple of months, whereas as recently as 18 months ago I was getting 2-3 day migraines a couple times per month), I have unfortunately been prone to migraines my entire life, even as a child. I tried a number of prescription medications that various doctors recommended over the years, some of which had to be taken daily whether I had a migraine at that time or not, none of which proved to be particularly effective.   As I have gotten older, I have become less and less trusting of the pharmaceutical industry (see the articles Doctors on the Take and Clinical Practice Guidelines or Legalized Bribery by nephrologist Dr. Jason Fung) and decided to try managing my migraines without medication.  This is what has worked for me.


1. Following a ketogenic diet (evidence), including intermittent fasting (23:1 on weekdays, 16:8 on weekends) with an emphasis on whole (rather than processed) foods.  Not only is this research-based, but it has been the most effective preventative for me. I currently keep my daily carbs below 50 g per day,  with the goal of staying under 30 g at least 3-4 days per week.  However, I have upped my carb level from the standard <20 g daily in order to incorporate more vegetables after reading “The Microbiome Solution ” by gastroenterologist Dr. Robyn Chutkan.  Dysbiosis has been found to correlate with migraines in a number of studies (citation) and eating a diet rich in vegetables is associated with a healthier microbiome.  Basically I just eat pastured poultry from our farm, grass-fed red meat from nearby farms, our own free-range eggs, and LOTS of vegetables.  Nuts, cheese and plain full-fat yogurt are once-in-a -while treats, but these foods do increase migraine frequency for me.  When I stray from this way of eating, not only do I start to gain back the weight I lost but my osteoarthritis and migraines start up again.

This is becoming one of the most common reasons (after weight loss) that people adopt a keto diet. One of my high schooler’s friends suffers from debilitating, frequent migraines, and her doctor actually put her on keto, as medication was useless for her.

2. Magnesium supplementation

There is a robust body of research supporting the use of supplemental magnesium for migraine prevention (synopsis). I use 250 mg magnesium citrate twice daily (but be aware that gel tabs often contain carbs) and a magnesium chloride body spray after showering.

3. I try to avoid regularly eating dairy products and nuts, even though they’re low-carb, because those foods trigger migraines for me (and many other people as well). Unfortunately, cheese and nuts are two of my favorite foods.

Comfort techniques for pain relief

1. Gel ice pack placed across the front and sides of the neck (evidence)

2. Heated rice snakes for referred pain along abdomen/back on the affected side (my migraines are always unilateral but will occur on either side)

3. Pressure applied to the posterior top of the skull (bribe your kids to do this for you)

4. Peppermint essential oil (some people report relief from lavender essential oil but for me lavender worsens my headaches and also increases other migraine symptoms such as auras and vomiting)

5. Lying quietly in a darkened room.

This last one ties in to how the pharmaceutical industry has changed our way of dealing with illness. Many drugs we take, such as cold medicines, are not in any way curative. Rather, they simply mask symptoms of illness so that we can continue our frenetic production/consumption lifestyles.   However, as recently as a generation or two ago, illness meant a period of quiet rest at home. While reading Virginia Woolf’s (1882-1941) personal diaries I was struck by how she frequently referenced either herself or someone she knew “lying recumbent,” which meant the person stayed home on the couch or in bed when they weren’t feeling well.   But we don’t really do that so much anymore; we pop a few ibuprofen tablets, some Benadryl and a sudafed and drag ourselves to work or school.   And now, research into the gut-brain axis and microbiome (here is one example, but this is a hot area of research and new studies are being published frequently) are beginning to reveal that our processed food diet, frenetic pace of life, and national addiction to popping pills in place of nurturing our health is beginning to result in a significant decline in our physical and mental well-being.

These are the things that have helped me get some control over my migraines. Because different people have different triggers for their headaches, some or all of these might be helpful or not helpful for you; if you have found a really helpful tip or trick for managing migraine pain naturally, please do share it in the comments.

Brooding turkey poults and managing pecking.


Along with assorted chicks, ducklings, and goslings, we are raising two broad-breasted white and two broad-breasted bronze turkey poults.  Despite my warning the children that the turkeys already have a fall date at Munsell’s Poultry Processing, they wanted to name them anyway. I insisted that the names be food related, so the bronzes are named Feast and Leftovers, but one of our daughters humorously named the whites Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

They started out at two days post-hatch in homemade brooder boxes on steel wire shelves in the garage. We use red lights because they are warmer,  but also because turkeys and chicks will peck at each other if they see a wound on one of the birds, to the point of cannibalizing each other. The red light makes it more difficult to detect a wound on each other.


Nevertheless, Leftovers turned out to be a bit of a bully. He pulled some downy feathers off Guildenstern’s wing and made a little wound. That attracted the other birds’ attention, and they were all pecking and picking on poor Guildenstern.

My husband called a work colleague who raises turkeys who said to coat the wound with something called Blue Kote:


Blue Kote is an antiseptic wound dressing for horses, but it not only cleans wounds on poultry, but it also dyes the wound and feathers blue, which disguises it from the other birds so that they will not peck at the injured bird.


I also did some research online, and found the following helpful information about pecking behavior. First, if birds feel overcrowded or overheated they will peck more. So we separated the four turkey poults into two separate brooders. We also raised the heat lamps up in order to lower the temperature in the brooders.

Next, we increased the protein content of their diet by feeding them hard boiled egg that had been run through the food processor shell and all. We also finely chopped some raw beef liver and fed it to them with some finely ground granite chick grit.

I also added 1 teaspoon of seasalt to a gallon of water and used that as their drinking water for a few days in case they were missing any necessary minerals.  And to give them something appropriate to peck at, my husband hung a head of cabbage on a piece of rope into the brooder.

And finally, I moved them outside to a little coop in the backyard and made one of those heating pad “mama hen” brooders I wrote about before.



A wire mesh “cave” covered with a heating pad covered with a towel wrapped in press-n-seal and pine shreds over that makes a cozy outdoor brooder


The poults were thrilled to be outside in the fresh air and sunshine with grass and bugs to peck at instead of each other:


Rosencrantz’s wing is all healed up and Leftovers has been much less peckish.

Grow your own: helpful tools for getting your vegetable garden seeds started.

My kitchen has three large south-facing windows in a sort of bay window configuration.  This area gets lots of sunlight, especially when the leaves are off the trees, so it’s where I start my seeds in late winter.

I’ve gotten basil and parsley started in my toilet paper roll seed starter pots, and I’ll be starting peppers soon.   Continue reading

Dealing with a steep, slippery, gravel driveway in winter (update)

The weather has turned mild here in Michigan, but winter is far from over.  On that note – probably the single most viewed post I’ve written on this quiet little blog of mine is last year’s How to fix a slippery driveway hill without damaging the environment.  Multiple people per day ask Google how to deal with a steep, slippery driveway and end up on my humble outpost of a blog. Since I feel their pain, having had to get my minivan winched out of the drop-off beside our driveway not once but TWICE (with the second time involving some rather unkind verbal exchanges between myself and my incredulous husband while standing on the edge of the embankment up to our knees is snow, but let’s not talk about that now), I am reposting the link above to the original post along with a few added notes below.

We use industrial absorbent diatomaceous earth to keep our driveway passable in winter. Diatomaceous earth is made entirely of fossilized algae, so it is not harmful to the environment or your landscaping.


Our steep, curving gravel driveway, sprinkled with industrial absorbent diatomaceous earth and pictured here with a ferocious Shiba Inu.

Almost every major auto parts store carries diatomaceous earth as an oil absorbent.  Note that this is NOT food-grade diatomaceous earth powder that is sometimes added to grains to keep pests from destroying them while stored, like this stuff:

This will NOT work on your driveway

Rather, it has a course texture, almost like cat litter, but it is NOT clay-like when it gets wet:

It does not become slippery or caked-up.  It stays granular so that your tires can grip it.  Here is some on my driveway a couple of weeks ago:


At $5-10 per bag, it’s a very cheap way of dealing with a steep, icy, gravel driveway.  It sticks around pretty well, so if you spread some on your driveway, you shouldn’t need to add more unless you get a bunch of additional snow that covers it up.

I hope this advice is helpful to someone out there and saves you both the tow-truck fee for a winching-out and the marital strife that may occur when your husband makes a flippant remark about your driving skills while your minivan dangles over the edge of a drop off. 🙂


Hey feminists, I know you are but what am I?

That moment when I realize I am far less sexist than feminists…

If I had a nickel for every time I was taken to task by some internet feminist for being allegedly sexist back when I used to run my anti-feminism blog, I would be writing this post from my Northern Michigan hunting preserve with luxury cabins and on-site deer processing facility.  But it turns out, feminists are the real sexists:

In Karen Keller’s kindergarten classroom, boys can’t play with Legos.

They can have their pick of Tinkertoys and marble tracks, but the colorful bricks are “girls only.”

“I always tell the boys, ‘You’re going to have a turn’ — and I’m like, ‘Yeah, when hell freezes over’ in my head,” she said. “I tell them, ‘You’ll have a turn’ because I don’t want them to feel bad.”

Although her approach might anger some parents, Keller is sticking to her guns: It’s all part of a plan to get girls building during “free choice,” the 40 minutes of unstructured play time embedded at the end of every school day.

Huh.  Sex-segregated play?  Tell me the one about gender being just a social construct, feminists.

I know I said I wasn’t going to write about the idiocy of feminism much anymore, but this story hit close to home.  As you may know, I am a speech-language pathologist.  I have worked in private practice and out-patient med rehab, but currently I work in a public school.  It’s a nice school.  The teachers are good, it’s a semi-rural setting, the kids are progressing well…no OMG aren’t the public schools so awful! stories to share about the building I work in.  The Kindergarten teachers there, who are not to my knowledge sexist feminists, all have tubs of Legos in their rooms for the children to use during choice time, and I have never ever seen them restrict use to one sex or the other.

As readers of my old blog may recall, I am a huge proponent of using Legos or other such bricks during therapy.  A typical therapy session for me is as follows:

I go to pick up Bobby (not his name) from Mrs. Smith’s (not her name) Kindergarten room.  He is building with Legos but doesn’t mind stopping to come to the speech room to work on his /s/ sound.  We sit at the table and I open up my large totebag filled with ziploc bags.  In the bags are various small sets of Legos, including the Friend Legos that are marketed toward girls, with their instruction booklets.  There are also large ziploc bags full of Snap-N-Style dolls.  He may choose any of these items.  Bobby always chooses the Legos, and he never chooses the Friend Legos.  Girls almost always choose the dolls or sometimes the Friend Legos.  Hey folks, I don’t make the biological sex roles!  But neither do I fight against them…

“Bobby, let’s go through your words now.  For /s/, keep your teeth together, put your tongue on the ‘T’ spot, and blow.  Ready?  Repeat after me.”

After 5 words, Bobby gets the blocks he needs to complete step 1.  He then uses the words in sentences and gets the blocks for step 2.  He continues working dilligently on his speech work with pauses to build.  At the end of the session, he has built this:

“Great job on your speech sounds, Bobby.  You may have 2 minutes to play with what you built.”

“Can we make a video?” he asks.

Yes, I say, smiling to myself because Bobby doesn’t know that making Lego videos is my trick for getting him to practice narrative language skills.  Bobby proceeds to narrate a brief story about a bad thief and a good cop while I record it with my school iPad.  While he watches the video happily, I tell him to check to make sure his story has a beginning, a middle, and an end.  He says it does.  He gets his sticker (he can choose from a wide variety of stickers but almost always chooses a super hero sticker – hey folks, I don’t make the biological sex roles).   He leaves.

Bobby returns to class happy and sits down for read-to-self time.  When Suzy (not her name) comes to speech, she gets to choose from the same totebag.  She almost always chooses the Snap-N-Style dolls, which stimulate her spatial reasoning skills and develop her fine motor abilities just like Legos do.  Her narrative video shows a girl doll feeding the Snap-N-Style puppy and brushing its fancy fur.

Oh, curse you, you persistent biological sex roles!

Naturally Bobby and Suzy are free to choose to play with whatever they find in the totebag.  Boys who play with dolls and girls who build motorcycle cops are A-okay by me; my therapy goals for them will be achieved either way.

In other words, I don’t have to be sexist like feminists are to use Legos at school.

Now, let us contemplate the school district’s response to noted sexist Kindergarten teacher Karen Keller:

“Following the release of a recent news article, the Bainbridge Island School District (BISD) has received inquiries that reflect inaccurate perceptions about student access to Legos in Karen Keller’s kindergarten classroom at Blakely Elementary School,” wrote district spokeswoman Galen Crawford.

“In keeping with a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education grant, Ms. Keller gave girls a designated time to play with the building toys during a 30-minute ‘free-choice’ time block in September 2015. This isolated, short-term practice ended in October. All students in all classrooms have and will continue to have access to all instructional and noninstructional materials.”

Hey Bainbridge Island School District administrators, here is a protip from me: if you refuse to call out isolated incidents of terrible and probably illegal behavior by one of your teachers, you feed the fire of public perception of our schools being evil dens of ultra left-wing idealogues who want to brainwash and indoctrinate little children to their personal political agenda by all means possible, including using discriminatory classroom practices.  Those of us who are down here in the trenches know that most teachers aren’t like that, so why do you throw them under the bus by defending bad apples like Karen Keller?   It’s hardly a mystery why homeschooling is increasing by seven to fifteen percent per year when certain school administrators won’t police their own.

Luckily for me, this kind of crap would never fly in the district I work in.  I wouldn’t work there if it did since speech therapists are highly in demand and I could choose to work in a variety of schools, therapy clinics, hospitals, or skilled nursing facilities instead.  I will never silently acquiesce to sexual discrimination against boys no matter where I work.

But let’s end on a positive note, shall we?  Let’s talk about why I use Legos in my therapy plans so often.  It isn’t solely because Legos are fun and children love them.  There is actually a plethora of research that demonstrates the cognitive, fine motor, linguistic, social and academic benefits of playing with bricks such as Legos.  I use them as reinforcers for speech sound articulation therapy, for building narrative language skills, and for improving social pragmatic language skills for children on the autism spectrum.  I’ve used them with kids who stutter to practice fluency techniques.  I’m even considering starting a second blog on which I post all my therapy lesson plans involving Legos or other building blocks since I’ve seen so much improvement in the children with whom I use them.

For those who are interested, here are a handful of studies, but there are many more:

  • Caldera YM, Culp AM, O’Brien M, Truglio RT, Alvarez M, and Huston AC. 1999. Children’s Play Preferences, Construction Play with Blocks, and Visual-spatial Skills: Are they Related? International Journal of Behavioral Development; 23 (4): 855-872.
  • Casey BM, Andrews N, Schindler H, Kersh JE, Samper A and Copley J. 2008. The development of spatial skills through interventions involving block building activities. Cognition and Instruction (26): 269-309.
  • Christakis DA, Zimmerman FJ, and Garrison MM. 2007. Effect of block play on language acquisition and attention in toddlers: a pilot randomized controlled trial. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 161(10):967-71.
  • Heisner J. 2005. Telling Stories with Blocks: Encouraging Language in the Block Center Early Childhood Research and Practice 7(2).
  • Ferrara K, Hirsch-Pasek K, Newcombe NS, Golinkoff RM and Shallcross Lam W. 2011. Block talk: Spatial language during block play. Mind, Brain, and Education (5): 143-151.
  • Kamii C, Miyakawa Y and Kato Y. 2004. The development of logico-mathematical knowledge in a block-building activity at ages 1-4. Journal of Research in Childhood19: 44-57.
  • Keen R. 2011. The development of problem solving in young children: a critical cognitive skill. Annu Rev Psychol.62:1-21.
  • Legoff DB and Sherman M. 2006. Long-term outcome of social skills intervention based on interactive LEGO play. Autism. 10(4):317-29.
  • Oostermeijer M, Boonen JH and Jolles J. 2014. The relation between children’s constructive play activities, spatial ability, and mathematical word problem-soving performance: a mediation analysis in sixth-grade students. Frontiers in Psychology 5 Article 782.
  • Pepler DJ and Ross HS. 1981. The effects of play on convergent and divergent problem solving. Child Development 52(4): 1202-1210.
  • Richardson M, Hunt TE, and Richardson C. 2014. Children’s construction task performance and spatial ability: Controlling task complexity and predicting mathematics performance. Percept Mot Skills. 2014 Nov 11. [Epub ahead of print]
  • Roseth CJ, Johnson DW, and Johnson RT. 2008. Promoting Early Adolescents’ Achievement and Peer Relationships: the Effects of Cooperative, Competitive, and Individualistic Goal Structures. Psychological Bulletin, Vol. 134, No. 2: 223-246.
  • Sprafkin C, Serbin LA, Denier C and Connor JM. 1983. Sex-differentiated play: Cognitive consequences and early interventions. In MB Liss (ed), Social and cognitive skills: Sex roles and child’s play. New York: Academic Press.
  • Stiles J and Stern C. 2009. Developmental change in young children’s spatial cognitive processing: Complexity effects and block construction performance in preschool children. Journal of Cognition and Development (2): 157-187.
  • Verdine BN, Golinkoff RM, Hirsh-Pasek K, Newcombe NS, Filipowicz AT, Chang A. 2013. Deconstructing Building Blocks: Preschoolers’ Spatial Assembly Performance Relates to Early Mathematical Skills. Child Dev. 2013 Sep 23. doi: 10.1111/cdev.12165. [Epub ahead of print]
  • Wolfgang CH, Stannard LL, and Jones I. 2003. Advanced constructional play with LEGOs among preschoolers as a predictor of later school achievement in mathematics. Early Child Development and Care 173(5): 467-475.
  • Wolfgang, Charles H.; Stannard, Laura L.; & Jones, Ithel. 2001. Block play performance among preschoolers as a predictor of later school achievement in mathematics. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 15(2), 173-180.

Happy building!

Reusing everything (old roofing shingles, pallets, sewing machines, magazine racks, and more!)

Walking around our home recently, I realized that about 85% of our furniture was given to us by people who were downsizing, inherited from deceased relatives, or salvaged from someone’s trash and refinished.

We think long and hard before we dispose of anything.  You have to be careful doing this so that you don’t end up with a lot of clutter, which would make finding things difficult, and you have to be willing to part with things if you really can’t come up with a way to reuse/repurpose/upcycle them, but with a little effort, most things can be used again when they’ve outlived their original purpose.  I thought I’d share a few recent ones from around here.

This past summer my mother-in-law downsized from a large home to a condo.  She and my husband’s father (who passed away about a year and a half ago) lived in their home for many years and had acquired a lot of furniture that was stored in their basement.  She needed to get rid of this furniture before moving.  We’ve acquired some of these items from her and have been having an interesting time figuring out how to fix them up and reuse them.

One such item is an old pedal sewing machine.  My MIL has two others, both of which work, so we didn’t feel like this one needed to be saved for actual sewing.  All summer it served as a plant stand in the garden, but the summer rains warped the cabinet badly.


This fall, Phil removed the old wooden cabinet and we used it as kindling during a backyard campfire.


He sanded and painted the metal base and used some salvaged wood that he sanded and stained to make a table top for it:


I may continue to use it as a table and plant stand, but I’m also thinking of moving it into the kitchen as a stand for the bread machine, bread box, cutting board, and bread knives.

I liked the look of the old sewing machine and it was heavy as can be – very well made – so I decided to walk out near the woods and place it on an old tree stump just as a kind of woodland garden art:


I will probably dispose of it eventually, but for now it reminds me of the Chilkoot Trail in Alaska, which is considered an outdoor museum; all along the trail you can see abandoned items from the Gold Rush years in the late 1800s.  It’s a neat hike, and it is fun to discover all the old items – from prospecting pans to old steam engines – hiding in the woods and on the rocks.

My mother-in-law also gave us an old magazine rack:


It’s nice heavy wood but we didn’t need it for this purpose. What I did need was some place convenient to put baking sheets and cooling racks, so my husband cut the legs off shorter for me so that it could fit on a shelf, and then I used spray paint primer and then two coats of glossy black spray paint so that it matches the black granite counter tops in the kitchen.


I thought it looked pretty good for a freebie!

We also received a VERY beat up painted wooden table with a white enamel top.


It reminded me of a table my parents had when I was little, so I didn’t want the top refinished, only cleaned, but Phil stripped and sanded the wood and then repainted it with watered-down light grey latex paint to make a sort of grey “white wash” effect.


We already had the paint, so again this was totally free and is now used as a kitchen table where I can keep the fruit stand, my aloe vera plant for treating kitchen burns, and as a prep surface.  The drawer has cutting boards stored in it.  I may grow a winter herb garden here if I get out to the garden and dig up some things; most of the herbs survived the last freeze, but it won’t be long now before they’re gone for the year.

Got some old leftover roofing shingles hanging around?  They can be laid out overlapping to make a walkway!  As I’ve mentioned before, I put this one in a place where we wanted a walkway but which we could not install a cement or paver pathway because it’s over our septic drain field (most people don’t realize that septic drain fields are only located about a 6-18 inches below ground).  I just laid the roofing shingles right over the grass.  For the first season, you might catch your foot on the overlap, but after that, the grass will have grown over the edge a bit and will hold the walkway down securely.


Also, I’ll probably separate this one out into its own post, but old wood pallets also make nice walkways through the woods, especially if there are soggy, mucky areas.


I’ve mentioned this before, but we are always on the lookout for pallets that are being thrown away, and I’ve been working on a pallet walkway since we moved in.


It’s pretty long now and both the children and the dogs like to walk on it.


I put old cardboard under the pallets to keep weeds down, but I also use old paper bags full of junk mail, newspapers, and the like under the pallets.


Fallen leaves eventually cover the cardboard and paper bags so that you can’t even see they’re there.

The next one was a wobbly old side table, absolutely filthy and painted with peeling bile green paint.  The lamp was just the base and so dirty you couldn’t tell what color it was underneath.  But they were free and we needed a table and lamp for the guest bedroom which we had just painted a sort of New England grey.  After lots of scrubbing, the lamp proved to be a bit, how shall we say…well, tacky…but with a new socket and lampshade, it serves its purpose just fine.  Phil tightened up the table to eliminate the wobble; it wasn’t worth his time to do much more to it, but I gave it a good scrub, two heavy coats of primer, and then three coats of whimsical purple spray paint.


I added a cloth made of hand sewn lace and embroidery made by my great-grandmother.  And then one day that…um…unique little glass bird figurine appeared there.  I don’t know exactly where it came from, but I suspect it came from my husband’s grandmother’s house and probably holds some kind of nice childhood memory for him.  And all I can say is thank goodness this is the guest bedroom. 🙂


Most of the stuff we save and refinish isn’t quite this kitschy, but if you ever come spend the night here, you’ll repose in a room that will remind you of your great Aunt Helen’s sitting room, I guess. 🙂

My husband has a bunch of other salvaged furniture in the process of or waiting to be refinished in his workshop:


With as much as we both enjoy salvaging, refinishing, and upcycling (this word annoys me for some reason – it sounds too hipster maybe – but you get my meaning), I’m almost beginning to think this might be an enjoyable and profitable side business for us.  Modern furniture is of very poor quality, which you know if you’ve bought any made-in-China particle-board-n-veneer crap recently.  But older, better-made pieces are often either rather beat up (and not in a cool “antiqued” way) or badly out of date (and not in a cool “retro” way).  Fixing them up gives good quality items new life for a fraction of the price of new stuff and helps us all extricate ourselves a little more from the anti-family hyper-consumerism that grips our modern culture.

I’ll end with one that is awaiting refinishing and mechanical repairs.  This one actually caused an argument between Phil and me, as I seriously questioned why he brought this home from his dad’s old shop before the business was sold last year:


“You’ve got to be kidding me!” I complained.  “What on earth do we need an old, broken refrigerator for?”

Then I learned from Wikipedia that these models are antiques from the late 1920s/early 1930s, and you can find them on ebay selling for around $1000.  So that pretty well shut me up. My husband is planning to fix it up and is debating whether to sell it or keep it as his beer fridge in his workshop.  I told him I voted for the former, upon which he informed me that I don’t get a vote in this matter. 🙂

Shoo, Deerfly, don’t bother me: making a deerfly trap hat.

I love living out in the country, amid the forest…


Driving down our road at dusk



The land across the street from us, which is still for sale…

…peaceful farmland…


One of our neighbors’ farms

and cute livestock:


One of my favorite local sheep red angora goats

But I don’t love the deerfly:

Chances are that if you live anywhere east of the Mississippi, you’ve encountered deerfly…most likely when you suddenly felt a sensation like having a lit cigarette bumped against your bare arm and discovered one of these little horrors lapping up the blood from the hole it just made in your flesh.

A little information about these dreadful creatures:

Deer flies (also known as yellow flies, or stouts in Atlantic Canada) are flies…that can be pests to cattle, horses, and humans. A distinguishing characteristic of a deer fly is patterned gold or green eyes.

Deer flies are a genus of horse-flies (Tabanidae). They are smaller than wasps, and have coloured eyes and dark bands across their wings. While female deer flies feed on blood, males instead collect pollen. When feeding, females use knife-like mandibles and maxillae to make a cross-shaped incision and then lap up the blood. Their bite can be painful, but many bites are not noticed at the time, especially if the victim is distracted. Allergic reaction from the saliva of the fly can result in further discomfort and health concerns. Pain and itch are the most common symptoms, but more significant allergic reactions can develop.

They are often found in damp environments, such as wetlands, bogs, or forests. They lay clusters of shiny black eggs on the leaves of small plants by water. The aquatic larvae feed on small insects and pupate in the mud at the edge of the water. Adults are potential vectors of tularemia, anthrax and loa loa filariasis.

I started noticing these loathsome vermin while I was working in the garden around the beginning of July.  Because deerflies range over several miles, trying to get rid of them with chemical sprays is pointless.  There are (very expensive) traps like this that you can buy:

But that doesn’t help you if you walk out of range of the trap, as I do every single day when I walk our dogs. I decided to look online for a solution, and I found this guy’s instructable page on how to make a deerfly trap hat.  Here are the ones he has made:

deerfly hats

The required products are a large blue disposable cup or bowl, some tanglefoot paste, a putty knife, and something to attach the cup or bowl to.  Apparently research has shown that deerfly are very attracted to blue.  They approach the hat and become stuck to the tanglefoot paste, where they eventually die without ever biting you.

Several commenters on the instructable posted pictures of their own fashionable homemade head gear.  I thought the foil tape was an especially nice touch here:

Just in case your teenagers aren’t already embarrassed to be seen with you…

But this other guy’s caught my attention because he used velcro to attach a disposable blue plate to the back of his hat, making it easy to remove and replace as needed:

I decided I would make such a hat for myself.  I bought the blue bowl, I already had a garden hat and the velcro, so all I needed was the tanglefoot paste.  This product, which is used to keep pests off fruit trees, was invented by a Michigan company and produced for the last 100 years or so in my old hometown of Grand Rapids.  However, it seems that several years ago it was sold off to a large national corporation which has seriously scaled back production because I could not find it anywhere.  I looked online, I looked at all the big box home and garden places like Home Depot and Lowe’s, I checked the local Family, Farm, and Hearth, but no one had it.  On a whim, I stopped by the Dexter Mill – from now on, I’m just going to start with the Dexter Mill and then go elsewhere if they don’t have what I need.

The Dexer Mill 3515 Central St, Dexter, MI 48130 (734) 426-4621

Not only did they have the tanglefoot paste that I needed, but one of the girls there told me she likes to go running on the local rural roads and uses Tred-Not DeerflyPatches on her cap to keep the deerfly off:
They were only a few dollars for a pack, so I decided to give them a try.  I stuck one of the patches to the back of the cap I wear while walking the dogs; on the walk from my house down the driveway to the mailbox and back, which is about ½ mile round trip, I received zero deerfly bites even though I was wearing short sleeves and caught four deerfly:
I was happy enough with the patches, so I never got around to making the blue tanglefoot cap.  We’re starting to get some cooler weather at night, so the deerfly population has diminished quite a bit.  However, I have all the necessary tools to make it at the start of deerfly season next summer:
I will wear this while working in the garden, which is right next to our large pond that brings all the deerfly to the yard, because no one will see me, so it doesn’t matter if I look like a total dork.  I’ll use a cap with the deerfly patches whenever I have to go out among other people, like while walking my dogs on our road, so as not to cause my children to die of shame due to having a mother who wears a sticky bowl on her head.