I have sprouts!

It’s been a few days now and my little garden has tiny green sprouts all over. I am so excited. I don’t have pictures yet, but I will. We are sheltering in place and this is the most exciting thing to happen in 2 weeks. Although, I actually put on a real shirt instead of pajamas – still wearing pajama pants – for a web meeting I had today. That was exciting.

Stay safe, wash your hands, and stay inside!

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Hello world (from behind the curtains)

We are still indoors. You are still indoors. My garden has not sprouted yet – it’s only been about 4 or 5 days, so it will be a few more before I start seeing green. Not much is going on in the old homestead here. I am teleworking and have school most days so not much time to craft or bake or whatnot. I did help my son bake our anniversary cake. But, he wants two tiers, so my husband is going to have to help him with the rest. That ought to be entertaining. He doesn’t like cooking and NEVER bakes.

Even in the free time I’ve had I end up just scrolling through my phone or watching TV. I have not been in the mood to start a craft that I can only do once every few days. I don’t have many small, finish in an hour kinds of crafts around the house, either. This was never going to be my most productive time, with school 2-3 evenings and most weekends. Maybe if I had more time I would start a project. But every few days for a few hours is not enough to motivate me to start something. Not even a book! I have a thousand books and none of them are appealing right now. Literally a thousand. That’s how bad this has gotten. Ah, well. Sometimes life is like that.

How are you coping with being indoors? Any new projects? Share! It may motivate me to start something. Stay safe and healthy. And wash your hands!

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Anniversary

Our 19th wedding anniversary is coming up in a few days. It will be a strange one. No going out to dinner. No partying with friends or family. We will be home. With the kids. I think I’ll put the kids in charge of making a cake for us. They like to bake and we need something happy to distract us from the day to day horrors that we keep hearing about. And what a cake it’s likely to be. Every single bit of sprinkles and sanding sugar in the pantry is likely to be on it. Sweet enough to put me in a diabetic coma, I’m sure. But it will be amazing because it will definitely be made with love.

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Stir crazy

I haven’t been farther afield than my front porch in 9 days. I’m starting to get a little crazy. I am studying to be a teacher at the moment but, with schools closed for the rest of the school year, it’s looking like I’m not going to be able to finish my in-classroom observations until next school year. That means I won’t get my license until after the school year has started. Not sure how likely it is that I’ll get a job part-way through the year. So, I’m looking at what I can do if teaching falls through. (told you I’m getting a little crazy) I started out looking at a communications degree. Reasonable. Lots of social media manager type jobs out in the world. I looked at economics, too statistics heavy though. Then I thought to my stir crazy self, “Oh! I could be a doctor!” I stated looking into medical school. Yeah. No doubt I could do it, it’s just not in my comfort zone and only about $120,000 in student loan debt. So, there’s that.

I need a project. I am teleworking during the day, so I only have evenings. And not every evening as I am still in school to be a teacher. That’s 2 evenings a week and most weekends. I have cross-stitch kits, and knitting needles and a little yarn, and a sewing machine with yards and yards of muslin. The problem is, I’m not feeling the fabric crafts right now. I could be writing a book, but I haven’t been writing much lately except journaling and this blog more regularly. There are tons of things I could do, I’m just so bored that I don’t want to do any of them. I’m not even reading as much as I could be! Am I the only one? The rest of my family is off school and work so they are all staying up until 1 or 2 AM and then sleeping until noon. I am up at 6:45 AM to wander downstairs and start work at 7. With a very big mug of coffee. Almost a thermos, really.

I keep thinking to myself that I’ll never take a walk around Walmart for granted again. That’s not true. I will. We all will. Things will get back to normal and we’ll all start taking the outdoors for granted again. Sad, but true. We all thought the world would never be the same after 9/11 and we were right, but not in the ways we thought then. We thought the wave of brotherly feeling would sweep the nation and we would all be kinder to each other after that. Nope. Laws changed but people didn’t. We rarely do. Not to be a Debbie Downer or anything. There is some comfort in the idea that we will all go back to normal after this. It is a generationally defining moment but not a changing one.

To get back to the point, I am bored. How are you all coping with not leaving the house? I am trying to putter around and keep a little busy but mostly I am just flipping through Facebook on my phone (I know, what can I say? I’m old). The boys are playing video games and my husband has taken to building things. The trips to Home Depot are getting ridiculous. He can still go out because he’s not in a vulnerable population like I am. He’s taking precautions but he’s the one who deals with the public for the family. He’s almost totally transformed the garage at this point with his builds – shelving units and hanging shelves and rearranging things over and over. He’s having fun and keeping busy though, so I won’t complain. I hope you all are having fun adn keeping busy as well. To those who are working through this time, thank you. You are helping keep the country going and keeping those of us at home from starving or falling ill ourselves. You deserve every good thing. Thank you.

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WW2 sense and sensibilities

In this time of scarcity, it is important to remember that we, as a country, have been through worse than this and come out swinging. World War 2 was a time of rationing and scarcity such as this country had rarely seen. The Depression just a few years before had taught people how to live with less. The war years made that knowledge a virtue.

Victory gardens, canning, mending, making do, or doing without became a national war effort. Every scrap of material you saved and used was another piece of material saved for uniforms or parachutes for our boys overseas. Every bit of food that you grew or canned was more food for the war effort – to feed soldiers or those saved from camps. With this kind of propaganda, many Americans felt it their patriotic duty to save everything they could, ration food and clothing and furniture and everything else possible, and learn new skills to make things at home instead of buying them.

We are not in a war. We are in the midst of a virulent pandemic. We are self-isolating. We are protecting those most vulnerable among us. It is hard to feel connected to people out in the world these days with the news focusing on deaths and infections. But remember, every day that you stay inside is another day that the infection curve lowers. It’s another day that you aren’t a carrier to others.

Hang out on your front porch. Take a walk around the neighborhood and wave to people out in their own yards. Play with your kids in your yard. Go on a hike in the woods. Turn out all the lights in the living room and pop some popcorn and watch a movie like you’re in the theater. Remember that we are, actually, all in this together. Buy only what you need at stores. Call to check on elderly neighbors or parents and grandparents. Wash your hands regularly and properly.

There is no propaganda this time. But it is a good idea to remember that those values and skills held by our grand (and great grand) parents are worth remembering for the hard times. And the not so hard times. Gardening, canning, sewing/mending, are basic homestead-type skills that are useful to know and can save money. The Ball Canning Book tells you how to can pretty much everything and Walmart sells canning supplies near the reusable food storage aisle. I am not affiliated with Ball canning, I just found their book really helpful when I was starting out canning and it is still a go to resource when I’m unsure of how long to boil or how much pectin to use.

The one thing that all of these skills take is time. That is usually a very precious resource, but a lot of us are home right now either teleworking or just home, and we have time o our hands to learn new skills and practice these things. Goodness knows we all have ratty towels we can practice our mending on; all it takes is a needle and thread. Gardening requires a longer investment but not much time. Just long enough to keep the weeds at bay and water it until you have a bounty of delicious food for your table. Seeds are cheap and last for a couple of years usually. All you need is a pot and some dirt and seeds. And finally, canning. Or freezing.Canning requires a full day at some point but the yield in terms of food is worth it. I can can a year’s worth of jam in an afternoon that tastes better than Welch’s.

It’s worth resurrecting those old skills to save money and keep from having to buy new things at every turn. My husband has taught himself how to build tables and raised gardens for me. We are not actually crafty people, but we are learning DIY skills. Organic food does not cost nearly as much if you raise it from seed. And you can know that it is truly organic because you are the one who chose the dirt, the fertilizer (if any) and the growing conditions. Seeing jars of food lined up that you grew and caned yourself is one of life’s pleasures. And wearing a favorite pair of pants or shirt longer because you learned how to mend it is an amazing feeling. I even learned how to darn socks! While mending, canning and gardening are what I’ve focused on here, there are so many other skills that can help you save money and provide entertainment during these long days at home. Learn to knit or crochet. Learn to bake or cook French food. Learn something that will serve you during this time of crisis and you will never be sorry.

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A changed – but familiar – world

I was thinking today about how much the world has changed in such a short span of time. There haven’t been many generation defining events in this country – the death of President Kennedy, 9/11 – but this is one. This virus will be remembered. My children will likely remember it as the year they got an unexpected vacation and didn’t have to take standardized tests. I will remember it as much more than that.

This self-imposed isolation, for many of us, hearkens back to the Depression and the World War 2 sacrifices that those on the home front experienced. IN a very small way, we are being called on to band together (in our separate homes) and do what is right for hte good of the nation and the world. Now, like then, there are shortages of needed supplies – food, masks, and especially toilet paper (which is inexplicable because it’s a respiratory illness, not a gastric one) – and ordinary citizens are being asked to pitch in and help make masks and sacrifice some of their comfort for the sake of the most vulnerable among us.

I am a student of the WW II home front. Now, as then, we need to start using up, wearing out, making do, or doing without. We can’t go grocery shopping like we used to. Even if we could, grocery shelves are bare more often than not. People are hoarding and trying to profit from misfortune, and it has ever been thus. But those of us who are trying to do our best to be mindful of others are finding ourselves without normalcy. Without access to our usual brands, to our usual pastimes, to our usual routines. This can be difficult to navigate.

As an introvert, I have a mountain of books and craft supplies to keep me occupied as well as movies and family to talk to. There are many who are’t so lucky. There are those who still have to go to work to make the country function, putting their own health on the line for those of us at risk. Doctors, grocery store employees, nurses, restaurant staff. Many of these people get paid the least and don’t have the professional protection that the rest of us do to stay home when they are sick or to care for those who are. Let’s try to be a little kinder to them than normal because they are what stand between us and a true dystopia.

Now is the time to figure out a DIY skill. Now is the time to use the good craft supplies. Now is the time to reach into the back of the closet, dust off your sewing machine and learn to make things. Create. Learn a new skill or language or dish to cook. Use this time to improve yourself in some way that will last beyond the self-imposed quarantine. If you are someone who has to work during this uncertain time, know that we are pulling together to help you. To make things easier on you and yours as much as we can, and to protect the vulnerable so that this ends sooner rather than later and much worse.

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My little garden

According to my husband I should be able to plant this weekend. He started building my little garden last weekend but fizzled out of momentum. I am excited, I have probably a dozen kinds of seeds – I got excited looking through the seed catalog and ordered everything I wanted to plant ever. That’s OK though, my little garden is not actually going to be that little so it will accommodate many of the varieties I want to plant. The plan is to build me an 8′ X 3′ raised garden bed. Not that small. My husband was going to build it 8′ X 4′ but remembered that I am short, with short arms, and he didn’t want me to have to bend and stretch to reach the plants in the middle of the bed. Isn’t he the best?

Most of the plants I have are salad greens and add-ins. I have tomatoes, not for salads because I don’t like raw tomatoes, but for pasta sauces and pizza sauce to can later in the year. I have micro greens, which I have never grown before. I wonder if I need to plant them later so they mature along with the lettuces and not before. I will figure that out pretty quickly I guess. I’ll plant a little test patch. I have lettuces galore and broccoli that can be grown until the frosts come. I have watermelon and peas to snack on right off the plant. (I never knew that peas were little balls of sweetness until I tried one right out of the pod a few years ago. Much better than the mush that comes out of a can!)

I am so excited to get things in the ground. I want to sit on the back porch and watch them grow. I want to weed and get my hands dirty. To feel the rich soil between my fingers and know that I am growing food for the family that is free from waxes and pesticides and harsh fertilizers. Truly organic gardening. I know that doesn’t make it any more nutritious than things I buy at the store, but it sure tastes better when I pick it out of the garden, bring it inside, and use it for dinner.

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Spring plans among the plague days

So, with the current world situation – corona virus running rampant – it makes sense to stay in. That’s good for your pocketbook and bad for your sense of adventure. I am an introvert, so I’ve been training for this my whole life. I have books and food and family and cats to keep me company.

With that comes a renewed desire to clean all the things. Just in case. It’s Spring; Spring cleaning time has come with renewed purpose this year. So, remember to use vinegar and baking soda instead of harsh, expensive cleaning products. I will be making my own laundry detergent and dishwasher tabs, cleaning my tub with a paste of baking soda and Dawn dish soap, and boiling herbs and spices to make my house smell good.

This Spring I have plans. I will hang laundry when possible (time is at a premium right now with school, work, job search, and family), garden every day, make soap when I can, and definitely can my own jam and any other thing I have a surplus of, if I can figure out how to do it. My mother bought me a pressure canner a couple of years ago and it hasn’t been out of the box yet. I am really looking forward to trying it out. Pizza sauce, spaghetti sauce, jam, tomato soup, carrots, anything and everything I can can, I will. That’s a lot of tomatoes in my list, isn’t it? I hope I get a bumper crop this year.

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Back to it – in a limited way

Here’s the deal…I’ve been out of the game for the past 4 years. I’m unused to writing for an audience and I’m unused to being green and thrifty anymore. I fell off the wagon hard. I was raised as a conspicuous consumer in the 1980s and it stuck. So, here I am back again, starting over.

 

I have a composter out in back of the house. I have stopped eating meat, dairy and eggs. My husband is building me a garden box (a big one) so that I can have fresh produce. I bought bamboo toothbrushes (love them!), and reusable produce bags for the market. I am starting where I am and doing what I can. I am also working full time and going to school nights and weekends to be an English teacher. Not a ton of time to make and craft and all of that. I did buy the ingredients for homemade laundry detergent and dishwasher tabs. Once we run out of the store bought, I’ll whip those up. They only take a minute and they work.

 

Things that aren’t working right now include hanging the laundry. I just don’t have the time. My son is doing some laundry for me and getting him to hang it is an exercise in futility. Also, we tend to do several loads one right after another on the weekend. I only have two racks. Only one load can get hung up at a time. So, dryer it is. We do recycle because there is curbside pickup. If we had to take it to the center, I don’t know that we would. My husband isn’t as onboard with all of this as I am and he would be the one to have to take it. It probably wouldn’t get done.

 

So, yeah, let’s talk about that. My husband is onboard only so far as it doesn’t inconvenience him too much. He pats me on the head and sends me on my way when it comes to environmentalism. He has agreed to at least try to eat whatever I put in front of him (he’s a naturally adventurous eater), but if he has to go out of his way to do something for the environment or if saving money impacts his ability to do things that he wants, he’s not for it. He’s not a bad guy, he’s just not interested. I know, it’s everyone’s business, but try convincing him of that. My kids are game for whatever as long as they don’t have to eat what I do. So, I do what I can within the confines of what’s acceptable to the family. It’s not as good as if they were all on board, but I am doing what I can.

 

That’s all any of us can do.

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Hello again

So, I’ve been out of the game for a good long while. I went right back to my spendthrift ways. But, just because I fell off the wagon (for 4 years) doesn’t meant he journey is over. I am back at it and this time I have some idea of what is worth my time and what is too much for the time and abilities I have.

 

Where have I been? Well, the job that I started 3 years ago gave way to another job in government a year ago. I am now in school to switch careers and become an English teacher while still working full time. My boys are 11 and 14 now and wonderfully weird. I managed to raise readers, which delights me to no end, and they are funny and kind and all the wonderful things that mothers believe about their sons. (except mine are all true) My husband is still rolling his eyes at my schemes to be green and thrifty while still enjoying shopping and eating out. I have to admit, sometimes I am eye-roll-worthy.

 

I have little to no time these days between school, work, and family (and some me time thrown in), but I am trying to do small things that don’t take much time or effort. For example, I got bamboo handled biodegradable toothbrushes. We needed to replace our brushes and these are actually cheaper than traditional plastic toothbrushes. And, we are using a little less plastic. Baby steps. I started composting again, too. Easy things that don’t take a lot of energy or time.

 

That’s my world right now. Lots of baby steps. Lots of incremental changes to take care of myself, my family, and the world around me. I look forward to writing more to keep me on track and going forward.

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