Poison Ivy remover Helaine Hughes
Greenfield’s Helaine Hughes has been running the Poison Ivy Removal Company for 13 years, one of the few companies of its kind in the country.
Photo by Mike MorinHelaine Hughes of Greenfield has the Poison Ivy Removal Company | !! | operated one of the few companies of its kind in the country.
F.Developing a business niche and serving it well is essential to building a successful company. After years in Corporate America, Greenfield’s Helaine Hughes followed her passion and founded the Poison Ivy Removal Company in 2003, one of the few national companies that invasively remove poisonous plants such as poison ivy. After 13 years, Hughes has expanded the service to include near-financial sustainability. It even helped her once to get off a traffic ticket.
Question: Tell me about your life before poison ivy was removed.
A. I worked for BASF Corp. for 14 years. worked in Bedford, Massachusetts, and I was the complaints department for nine of them, and it was actually a good job because it was a really good product and I spoke to a lot of people. I had fun.
Question: What made you want to eradicate a plant that you are personally allergic to?
A. In the 1970s, my father brought home a pair of pheasants and we had to build a cage for them to perch in a tree. The only place was behind the barn and there was poison ivy so we removed it. Fast forward to 2003 when I was a housekeeper for a family in Dunstable, Massachusetts, which I jokingly call the poison ivy capital of the world. They had poison ivy that grew after they replaced their stone wall. So I asked her if she could leave the kids in for 20 minutes and I pulled out all the poison ivy and she said I should get paid for it and she became my first customer.
Question: How common is poison ivy in New Hampshire?
A. It’s all over the east coast to the Mississippi. It’s very common locally in Amherst and Bedford, Hollis, right next to Dunstable. I go everywhere from Augusta, Maine, to Lake Champlain, from Springfield to the Cape.
When we’re in our hazmat suits, people go by and look around. You are very curious and are probably wondering how many hundreds of thousands of dollars your property will drop in value because of a hazmat situation. That’s why I always sing “Poison Ivy Removal” and they relax.
Q. When is poison egg season?
A. Usually people call in the spring after it sprouts and they start doing their garden cleaning and they got up all night and then found my website. As far as I know, I’m the only one in northern New England. There are several other people in Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and Philadelphia. Many of them spray. My niche is that I pull it out, use roots and anything and no chemicals at all.
Q. That sounds like hard manual work. Is it difficult to find people who want to do this?
A. Yes, because we’re in the Hazmat suits and we’re making the inside of the suit 10 to 20 degrees hotter than the outside. So you have to be a certain type of person to be able to handle this heat.
QQ Where do you find the people who want to grow poison ivy in the hot sun?
A. I put a sign at the end of the street, I tried Craigslist, and the word goes out among my friends when I seek help. Some people are good at it and others will try for a day and say, “No, this is not for me.”
My employees determine the bandwidth. My daughter started working for me when she was 11. I have a couple of people who don’t go to school who work for me from April and then go through November. I’ve had several home students work for me.
Q. Why doesn’t everyone react the same way to poison ivy leaf oil?
A. Some people have more sensitive skin and develop a worse rash. I have a red-haired daughter. She has the sensitive skin and she gets it like crazy but she still wants to work with me. I winced when I see the rash on her. It takes two to three weeks to get rid of the rash.
Question: If poison ivy roots are embedded in stone walls, do you take them down and then put them back together?
A. Yes. We don’t usually have to take it all apart. Poison ivy grows because birds eat the berries and then peel off the wax coating as it passes through their digestive tracts. When they poop it out, the seeds are ready to sprout. Poison Ivy loves stone walls for the warmth it retains at the end of the day. Poison Ivy also loves rotting stumps because of the constant heat generated by the rotting process.
Question: What do you do if the source of the plant is in the neighbor’s yard?
A. In that case, I’d suggest moving it two or three feet from your fence and then using a salt and vinegar spray to prevent the tendrils from growing back towards your fence. The spray is enough to kill tendrils, but not the entire plant.
Question: Is there enough work to make a stable living?
A. Not yet, but I hope soon. I’m doing taxes in winter.
Question: How many similar companies are there in the country?
A. About 20 or so. I know this because I go to the Poison Ivy conference every year. We have plant physiologists, a weed research professor from Virginia Tech who keeps popping up with fascinating experiments. We have people who spray, people who are writers, people who do invasive weeding in general, people who are interested in starting poison ivy removal companies. It is enough.
Q. Give me a quick remedy if I have a poison fire reaction.
A. One of the things I found is going to the beach. As long as you’re in and out of the sea salt water, don’t itch. There is also Zanfel cream that relieves itching. There are several homeopathic remedies, some with jewelweed, which is supposed to be the antidote.
Question: Is it true that you got off a ticket because of your activities?
A. Once, at 4:30 am, I was driving through a nearby small town center and there was a police car and the officer was staring at us. What I didn’t realize is that I switched ladders and didn’t have a red flag at the end of the ladder and it was more than a meter out.
So the officer pulled me over and I got my driver’s license and registration and then I heard the ladder being touched. And I jumped out of the truck and said, ‘Don’t touch this! It is covered with poison ivy. Did your uniform hit the back of the truck? «
I was horrified. So I jumped out with my water to wash him off and clean his hands. And he said, “You know, it’s kind of funny.” And I said “is it?” And he says, “Well, I’ve seen you walk around town and I know exactly what you’re doing and I still touched it.”
Then later that day I went to the dump to give the poison ivy and the guy who works at the dump was yelling all over the place, “What about you giving the cops poison ivy?” I didn’t get a ticket.