The Last Straw

Saturday night the rain moved out for good. We had breakfast and started trying to dry things out before Eric and the kids packed up dirty clothes and headed home for work and the last week of summer school. I walked them out to the parking lot, and when I got back, Dad was spreading straw over the mud. Turns out he’d talked to the guy in charge, who talked to the nice people at Rockome, and we were able to buy two small bales of straw to soak up the mud. We spread it carefully to cover as much mud as possible without clogging up the trenches, which we’d already begun calling The Moat.

The straw made a huge difference. By evening, the high traffic areas were evident and we knew the straw was working. The next morning, I went looking for a pitch fork, which caused a fair amount of amusement among the campers and park staff. We moved the dry straw aside so we could get the wet straw out, and then covered the still squishy spots with fresh straw.

There was one draw-back to all that fresh straw. The flies loved it. I think we inherited a few stow-aways in the bales, along with all the other flies in the area. That’s when we learned a very important lesson. We’d bought a box of borax when we’d shopped for groceries, which I’d sprinkled around the tents to try to keep the ants down. What we learned was that a mild borax solution used to scrub tables and other surfaces deters flies from landing on them. We don’t know if the flies don’t like the borax itself or if the borax cleaned so much better than plain water that there was nothing left to attract them, and frankly we don’t care. The bottom line is that we decided that borax needs to be a permanent part of the camp kit. Fly strips are good, too, but not period correct. In a pinch, scrap strips of fabric, tied to tent ropes and soaked in honey with a little water will also work, but hang them where they won’t get rained on.

In spite of our borax miracle, by Tuesday we were rather tired of flies and went to get the pitch fork again. The mud was as absorbed as it was going to get, so the straw was pitched out away from the tents. The ground was just damp at that point, and the sun finished drying out the mud. Luckily, it was indeed the straw the flies liked and not us!

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