Pandemic Journal, Day Six

3/21/2020

The snow has almost melted in our yard, with only a few shrunken patches where it was deeper or shaded. Squinting into the early dawn light on Wednesday morning, we were surprised by more flakes falling steadily from the leaden sky, adding extra inches on top of what had not yet melted. The break in the weather on Tuesday was enough for the guys to come out and fix our wood stove. So we are warm again and spread out in the house, feeling blessed. I sat on the deck today and enjoyed the sun while I could, before the next storm blows in tomorrow night.

It’s been a week now that we have been home full time, with only a couple of trips to the grocery store. My husband went to his school site and prepared packets to be mailed to the students in his program. After an hour and a half long phone conference with my school staff, I feel prepared to officially begin distance learning on Monday. Our school has the unique advantage of having online learning already set up for many of our students. I have been grading papers from last week and posting grades and instructional information on Google Classroom, along with emailing and texting families and students. It’s amazing how busy you can stay when you are home bound.

I always worry I won’t have enough to do when I am trapped in the house. There is always cooking, cleaning, and laundry. Moving my job to all online more than fills my schedule. I am also video chatting with our daughters and their kids daily, and our son is staying in touch. Now that the sun is out and the weather is returning to the springlike conditions we had a week ago, I wonder how staying put will feel. It’s important to get outside, and the garden is calling to me.

On Thursday evening, our governor told everyone in the state to stay home, except for essential needs like food and medical care. There are designated essential services that continue, but there is still controversy over who is and is not maintaining “social distancing.” The governor has made it clear that we will not be policed, as he is expecting us all to do the right thing, but as always, there are those who step up and those who do not, and the ones in between who struggle with change. I count my blessings every day, and try not to obsess over the dire reports I hear. All we can do is our part, and do it to the best of our ability.

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Pandemic Journal, Day Twenty

4/4/2020

This morning when I woke from an unusually deep sleep, it took me a few minutes to remember my plan for today. It’s Saturday, and although the days have been running together since I stopped going in to work and began using my home office (a corner of the dining room with a view of the back yard), it was a busy work week. I’m relieved to have finished my monthly meetings with the families that I support at my charter school, via phone, email, or video conference, and now I can turn my full attention during the next few days of “Spring Break” to sewing.

When I was a kid, it was “Easter Vacation,” usually the week after the holiday. Now it’s often the week before, and floats around the calendar so that each of my family members is off at a different time. Fortunately, as we teach in the same county, my husband and I are usually (but not always) off during the same week. It has always been a time for projects, and this year is no exception. With the increasing number of COVID-19 cases, the media has been full of articles about face masks. I found a pattern online, cut out the fabric, and waited for my break.

First, the push was to provide protective wear for our medical personnel. These masks need to be of the highest quality. That situation is slowly improving, but there are still many who are not adequately protected. I spoke on the phone with an ER nurse a few days ago, who said she didn’t have proper PPE-personal protective equipment-last week, but this week was better. Now we are also hearing that even a homemade mask, with two outside layers of tightly woven cotton fabric and a layer or two of non-woven material in between, can decrease the rate of spread of this disease. It is supposed to protect others from the wearer, and also be a reminder for people to maintain a safe distance.

Because I have family members who are in harm’s way, and my husband and I are of a certain age, I decided a few days ago to dig through my fabric archive in the laundry room. I haven’t done any sewing lately, but my last project was a throw for an old chair, and I have some leftover fabric which is fairly lightweight. I also found an unwoven interfacing stash, and two rolls of wide fabric ribbon for the ties. My sewing station is set up, and I am ready to go!

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Pandemic Journal, Day One

3/16/2020

This is an account of my experience as a bystander in what has become a tragedy in some parts of the world. So far it is a cautionary tale where I live, but that could change in the near future. Wherever you are, I hope you are healthy!

Today we stayed home and had no visitors to the house. Schools are closed for this week in our California county, and we woke up to 7.5 inches of fluffy, wet snow. So it’s also a Snow Day. The roads are slippery and chains are required in all directions, with some road closures. The stove store was supposed to send out the guys who were here on Friday to finish cleaning the wood stove (it’s still clogged), but they cancelled due to the weather. They may be here tomorrow around noon.

So it’s quite chilly in the house as well as outside. It was still snowing off and on in the morning, but also melting. It was 32 degrees when I got up around 7:30, and the high was around 40 degrees. The sun peaked out a few times during the middle of the day. By nightfall, most of the snow on the shrubs had fallen, and the snow on the benches at the edge of the deck looked like melting ice cream. A single space heater in the living room side of the great room kept the temperature between 55 and 57 degrees in the main part of the house. We stayed in the kitchen, where the oven was on for about an hour, and in the studio, where there is a gas wall heater. I already feel like a caged rat, but after the wood stove is working again, we can spread out and get warm.

I spent a lot of time this morning on email, texting, and scrolling through social media, posting pictures of the snow and sharing words of wisdom and other distractions. Then I baked some cookies, and at last got around to working on notes for my classes that I post on Google Classroom. I had an epiphany about the fact that my husband and I need our home to be a refuge. He needs to not have me in his face like his students do all day; he works in a program for troubled youth. I need to have my space and not have to deal with background noise; I work in a shared space where there are constant interruptions. So being trapped in a small room together, the only warm spot in the house today, was tough.

The TV was on and I was listening to music to drown it out; I was still distracted by the music, but I also like to visit and share. My husband wanted to be in his man cave. It will take a lot of patience to stay positive while we are home together. It’s not like summer vacation, when we can forget about school for awhile (which we rarely do). And I can’t work in the garden yet. There is more rain coming on the heels of this storm. The mild springlike weather we had a week ago is already a fading memory. I will need a project besides school work and social media, so I began this journal. Thank you for joining me!

 

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May Garden

20170508_173125-01Year two in my vegetable garden is starting with cool weather crops. The abundant rain we have had along with mild temperatures has encouraged my leafy vegetables and root crops to get rolling. Yesterday I thinned the radishes, snow peas and early corn plants. Two kinds of potatoes, red and gold, have come up, and are looking very healthy.

20170508_174810-01I have decided to use the method with the potatoes in which you mound straw around the plants as they grow, so it is easier to harvest the spuds. I hope that the cilantro I planted in between the rows of potatoes will not get buried beneath all that straw!

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Herbs in the Garden

20170430_101619-01Here we are, approaching the middle of spring. The days are getting longer and warmer, and the veggie seeds you planted have sprouted and are beginning to look like real plants! While you wait patiently for your garden to mature, it’s nice to have some perennial herbs from the previous year that you can enjoy in early spring.

The sage that I planted last year is about to bloom. It will attract pollinators, discourage carrot flies, and invigorate tomatoes. It should be kept away from cucumbers. I also planted parsley, marjoram, and thyme, three perennials that help other plants in the garden, and they already look vibrant this year.

Parsley attracts beneficial insects and repels harmful ones. It attracts predatory wasps and hoverflies, and repels beetles. Tomatoes benefit when planted near parsley, as the wasps it attracts kill the tomato hornworm. Do not plant mint near parsley, however. Neither plant will thrive.

20170430_081006-01Today I planted Cilantro, whose seeds are known as Coriander. Thus annual herb has many benefits in the vegetable garden. It does well with tomatoes, basil, spinach, and dill. It attracts beneficial insects such as tachinid flies, parasitoid wasps, and hover floes. It discourages harmful insects such as aphids and potato beetles. Cilantro does well next to nitrogen-fixing plants such as peas and beans. Other annuals I have planted or will plant this year are dill and basil. These herbs are important additions to your vegetable garden.

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Give a Fig

20170423_151701-01On a recent field trip for my UC CA Naturalist class, I was able to obtain several cuttings of a white fig. I rooted them in water, but after some investigating I discovered that the cool weather may be impeding the development of roots. I gave the process another week, and finally one of the stems developed root buds. I transplanted it to potting soil and put it outside in the garden. A week of warmer temperatures later, root buds formed on the other two stems, and I planted them as well. Apparently the roots formed in water are fragile, so it is important to plant the cuttings in soil as soon as the roots begin to form.

Now that I have the beginnings of fig trees, all I have to do is figure out where to put them. If we prune them aggressively, we can keep their size manageable. The parent trees these infants sprung from were huge.

It is taking quite a bit of patience to watch this garden unfold. The idea of planting something that won’t produce fruit for years is pretty overwhelming for me. It’s like parenting. You have to keep your eye on the present while planning for the future.

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A Day in My Garden

20170416_130855-01Happy Easter! Today I remembered that I hadn’t planted the first batch of seeds in my garden, which I had hoped to do a couple of weeks ago. It has rained so much lately that the soil has been too soggy to get much of a start. So I planted the majority of spring crops in the garden today, just ahead of another storm. The timing was almost perfect.

After choosing the seeds I planned to plant and deciding where they would go, I collected my supplies and headed out to the yard at 8:30. The rain would arrive between 1 and 2 pm, so I thought I had plenty of time. After transplanting a couple of herbs from last year, I began planting seeds for spinach, lettuce, chard, carrots, beets, snow peas, dill, and raab. I had planted more potatoes yesterday; the first batch went in a month ago, and they have just sprouted.

I also planted some more sunflower seeds along the fence of the garden, although there are some coming up from last year’s flowers. My goal is to attract even more pollinators, beneficial insects, and other critters like the earthworm above to the garden than I did last year. I will have flowers in each of the garden beds, and I have planted vegetables that are known to grow well together, as well as some that deter the pests of others.

I recently read that dandelions provide early food for bees. The last time I was out pulling weeds, a bee flew under my hat, and after waving my hands around I got stung on the ear. I have decided to end my war on dandelions in the interests of improving the bee population, at least in my yard. I have also decided to avoid overreacting to bees near my face!

After several sprinkles, I finally finished my latest gardening task, and made it back inside before the full force of rain arrived. At least I didn’t have to water! I am a bit concerned that the seeds will be too soggy, but the straw I have covered the beds with is an excellent mulch that keeps the rain from pounding the soil. It also insulates the soil so it is warm enough to plant. Last year I got a late start. This year I have started seeds inside and am also planting them later outside. Garden Year #2 is off to a great start!

 

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Seedlings!

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Who doesn’t love planting seeds? Two weeks ago I planted the first seeds of the season, and put them in the dining room where I am fortunate to have a large south facing window. Several days later, they began to sprout. First came the hollyhocks, an old-fashioned flower from my childhood that I hope will attract pollinators. Next the tomatoes and onions came up, followed by the leeks.

Today I planted the last of the seeds that I am starting indoors: zinnias, marigolds, and basil. I hope to begin planting seeds outside in the garden beds in the next few days, before the next storm. The soil has warmed up, but it is still damp from the rain we had last week, so I may have to wait. This time of year the weather is so unpredictable. Two years ago it snowed around this time.

As I am impatient to get my garden started, I will probably take a chance with some of my seeds and plant a bit early. Then I will plant more later. I am looking forward to my summer garden!

 

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A New Adventure

20170326_163041-01

Today I return to this beloved blog from a long sabbatical. I have been teaching full time again, and have become a grandmother. As if this weren’t enough to keep me occupied, I am starting a new project!

The UC CA Naturalist program trains those who wish to volunteer their time, energy, and expertise as citizen scientists and stewards of the environment. I am taking a class this spring at Sierra Streams Institute in Nevada City as both professional development and to become certified as a California Naturalist. My capstone project is titled, “Welcoming Pollinators and Beneficial Insects to a Home Garden.”

In this blog I will chronicle my efforts and results. Two years ago we moved into a house with an outdoor space for a large garden. Last year was my first attempt at gardening on a large scale. This year, I will continue to grow organic veggies, and I am introducing fruit as well. This blog will be my online garden journal. I hope you will join me!

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Along the Trail to Enderts Beach

trail to Enderts Beach

There is an overlook along the coast south of Crescent City, California, adjacent to a trail head. This coastal trail, which is a part of Redwood National Park, leads to Enderts Beach and beyond. It is a short drive off of Highway 101, and worth the detour.

view of Enderts Beach from trail

We arrived at the parking lot in the middle of the afternoon yesterday, after the fog had dissipated. It was warm and breezy, perfect weather for a short hike and beach excursion. Along the trail, we peered over the edge of the gentle cliffs, through the assorted vegetation and down into the surf and rocks below.

above Enderts Beach

An Osprey passed us as it cruised along the cliffs. The vertical drop was considerable, but the trail was long enough so that the descent was gentle. We were rewarded upon reaching the shore with the sight of a pair of Osprey fishing in the surf.

Osprey pair

Osprey pair one divingOsprey rising with fishMale Ospreyfemale Osprey with fish

An easy half mile hike took us back out to the parking area, and we continued south on 101 to Humboldt County as the fog crept back in and thunderheads danced above the coastal mountains. It was a very good day.

Enderts Beach

 

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