Pandemic Effects

It has been over a year and though you can find toilet paper in the grocery again, it took forever to get the garden seeds that I ordered and didn’t buy locally because of the desired varieties.

A year ago today, my post on social media was about having been totally sequestered for a month and making our first foray into town for supplies from the Natural Food Store before they began doing curbside pick up, and getting drive thru lunch. I read fear in that post as it also contained information about folks knowingly going to work or about their routines after testing positive. We are now fully vaccinated and though I will go in the Natural Food Store, Grocer, or feed store, I make my visits quick and masked and still note those that refuse to wear a mask or wear it incorrectly.

I have gardened most of my adult life to some degree or another, having the largest most productive one here on the farm that provides most of our green vegetables, tomatoes, peppers, fruit for jams, garlic, onions, and cucumbers for pickles. What I don’t grow, I purchase from the local organic farmer’s at the Farmer’s Market, but so many people who never gardened before, or raised chickens before, are doing so now. This has been a boon and a headache for those businesses that sell related product, thus the seed delays and unavailability. Yesterday, I went to the organic feed and garden supply store to get floating row cover as they are the only one in the area that carries it, and got their last 9 feet. Barely enough to cover the part of the bed that holds my brassicas. They also carry long, thin, flexible fiberglass poles for making the supporting hoops and as the ones I bought many years ago had deteriorated to the point that gloves were necessary to prevent fiberglass splinters, I purchased 6 new ones. If we have another frost, I will use them to create the hoop house or igloo shaped house over the 4 x 4 beds to cover with plastic or an old sheet.

I still have gallon jars of staple dry foods that we filled prior to lock down last year and have kept them filled in case it happens again. Though I let them get empty or nearly so before refilling now, I was buying those items whenever they were available for the first half of last year.

So far, chicken and chick feed have been available, and necessary until the hens and chicks can all be free ranging again and feed used as a supplement. Chicks at Rural King and Tractor Supply were selling out within 24 hours of arrival, where three years ago, I bought some that were already beginning to feather, they had been in the store for more than a week.

The social isolation has made so many people wary of any interaction. It is pleasant when you can have a passing acknowledgement or a wave as smiles are hidden.

As a hearing impaired adult, the masks have made conversations with clerks difficult and I often have to ask them to repeat or speak up. I never realized how much conversation context I obtained from reading lips and facial expression. I am due for a hearing aid check up, a hearing test, and I suspect a second hearing aid.

As family members get vaccinated, we look forward to seeing them again. Having daughter and her children nearby has been a bonus as we visited on porches, masked until vaccines were in place, and can now have dinner together or hike together unmasked.

Hopefully, the lessons learned through this will help if and when another virus emerges or this one continues to mutate into variants with unknown effects. If the conspiracy theorist and vaccine deniers will just stop their nonsence and getting a higher percentage of the population vaccinated, life might resume a new normal.

It is springing

We have had a string of May like weather this week. Time to really think spring. The peas are up a couple inches and there were blank spots where a seed didn’t germinate or a hungry critter ate it, so the blanks were filled in and the seedlings watered in. Wanting to hurry this process along to have veggies from the garden, I preordered more lettuce and brassica starts from one of the vendors at the Farmer’s Market to pick up on Saturday and they will be tucked in to the bed that has the greens started in it. Soon it will be time to trellis the pea shoots and figure out how to thwart the cabbage moths from laying their eggs on my brassicas. I don’t want kale and cabbage full of little green larvae that eat the leaves faster than I can pick them off for the chickens.

The first batch of tomato seedlings are spending every day on the back deck and some nights too. If it is going to get cooler than 45 f I bring them in. The second batch are about ready to pot into 4″ grow pots to join them. The Thai basil seed is growing in the hydroponic starter, but the cilantro still shows no sprouts. They either take forever to sprout or the seed was no good, but you would expect at least one to germinate. The Thyme in the hydroponic herb garden was getting out of hand, so it and the mint have been moved outdoors. The parsley, Thai basil, Genovese basil are thriving in the herb garden and more dill and basil have been started. I have an empty cell from moving the Thyme, so I need to decide what to start there. When I transplant the tomatoes from the second hydroponic unit, there will be more empty cells to fill. Maybe with spring and summer coming on to provide herbs and vegetables outdoors, the two hydroponic gardens will be shut down, cleaned, and replanted when it gets too hot outdoors for the greens. I have ordered new herb pods to start for next winter.

Several years ago, I traded some plants for some daffodils, but they were not planted in a good place and never did anything. I realized a few days ago that I had a small Nandina shrub that was being dwarfed by a Barberry tucked in the back corner of the breezeway set back, so yesterday I dug it out and moved it to the front of the house with the other Nandinas there and in doing so, dug up two clusters of tiny daffodil bulbs. This spring, I bought bulb starts from Kroger and planted daffodils in the east garage bed and the walled garden.

They are to provide spring color before the Iris and later the Day lilies bloom, so I moved the two clusters of small bulbs to better locations and hope that I will begin to have nice bunches of Daffodils to cut in a couple of years.

On the back deck steps are pots that contained flowers from last year. One pot had Pansies in it from two years ago that came back last year and self seeded in the pot. The small pot isn’t full, but it was exciting to find some flowers as I descended the stairs to fill bird feeders.

The Hummingbird feeders were filled and hung yesterday. I haven’t seen any birds yet, but the tracker indicates they are being seen nearby, so maybe soon they will dart in and out to delight observers as they hover and feed and chase each other off.

This morning, I saw the first Eastern Bluebirds of the season at the feeders. I hope they beat the tree swallows to at least one of the Bluebird houses in the garden. I have one more house, but no pole to attach it to.

As I transplanted the Thyme in the walled garden, I realized that the herb area and another area nearer the deck need more soil, it has settled or blown down to lower areas. A few more bags of mulch are needed to to the last small section of path in the veggie garden, so I think one more run to the big box hardware store is needed.

The chicks are thriving in the coop and seem less afraid of me when I’m not a giant looking down on them, but rather a benign being bringing treats to the thigh high coop. They have discovered the perches and realize they can see out the windows and see me coming when they are up on them. About half of them will eat seed from my hand. I’m hoping the others will get brave enough to do so as well. I don’t pick up and handle my birds any more than necessary, but it is nice to have them not fear me when I enter their midst or know that I am the giver of treats when they are out and I need them back in their pen.

Hiking with the kids

Yesterday at dinner, daughter said she took today off to spend with her kiddos and they were looking for a hike. I suggested that they do Kelly’s Knob and I would go with them. I have hiked it twice with Son 1 and family, the first time a backpacking, the second time from the road to the Knob and back because my knees were so sore by the time we got there the first time, I couldn’t get out on the rocks at the Knob. I had forgotten that the 1000 foot elevation change happens almost entirely in the first .5- .75 miles, then the hike levels out along the ridge line with a couple of shorter ups and downs, but basically a gentle walk once to gain the elevation. The hike is a bit more than 5 miles round trip.

It hasn’t greened up that high yet, so the trees are still bare, the only green being the moss and lichens. We heard no wildlife going in but had a Chickadee serenade us on our walk back out.

It took Daughter and me to get granddaughter across the crevices to get out on that rock, but from there you can look through the gaps in the mountain toward Blacksburg and Christiansburg off in the distance. It was a bit hazy today to see much out at the distance.

I have definitely gotten my workout today. We returned to the house and made lunch with ham sandwiches or salads then moved the chicks to their new abode. I still need to drag the 110 gallon tank out and clean the pine shavings out of it and into the compost pile, wash the tank out and store it away until it is needed again.

I’m glad I can still hike with my kids and they are patient with me when it is steep and I get out of breath.