Homestead Update

…and, how we’re staying sane, calm, happy, and healthy here at the Walbacz homestead!

Being at home for long swaths of time when you’re used to being out every day can be hard. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise if you’re struggling to do this. It can be extra difficult when you’re used to having help with kids, time away from family members for your sanity (dang, do they really use that much toilet paper?!), and more house cleanup, to say in the least.

So, I’m here to both give you something unrelated to what the news is constantly blasting as a break, and to let you in on what we’re doing around here to keep calm and centered. (By the way, if you haven’t turned the TV and the radio off in a while, especially the news, do that now. It’s not helping you during normal times, and it certainly isn’t now. I guarantee it.)

Let’s start with the homestead update, with pictures. Yay!

We’ve got sprouts, we’ve got sprouts! Specifically, arugula, more arugula that managed to get into the tomato pot, lettuce, and radishes in the porch containers. Huzzah! If you’ve got containers, access to soil and seeds, and sunlight, try your hand at growing easy lettuces, herbs, and radishes – they’re super simple and will keep you busy.

Speaking of herbs, our perennials are returning: catnip, chocolate and pineapple mint, thyme (and thyme again – I couldn’t resist), and spicy oregano. Thanks, nature!

Strawberries! The first is a new one in the bed that started from crowns, and the second is a volunteer plant from last year’s crowns. Yay! The third is our gargoyle, who keeps the hooligans out of our strawberries. Keep up the good work, Gargy!

We’re in love with the tulips that the last owners planted – they’re keeping our vases full inside and bringing smiles to our faces every time we step outside. Absolutely stunning blooms for the last two springs.

And speaking again of perennials, our moon garden perennials are back! Bergamot cluster (and you’d better believe we’re making some Earl Grey tea soon, possibly today), white phlox, and a dianthus, sans its summery white blooms. Most exciting!

Oh, man, the berries are back! Two giant raspberry brambles (not counting the canes they put out over the past year), one blackberry, and two blueberry bushes coming back to life are most exciting for future berry-related endeavors.

Probably the most exciting recent discovery (as in, yesterday) was that all of the fruit tree cuttings that we planted over a month ago are sprouting and showing signs of life. There’s nothing like seeing a bunch of dead-looking sticks that you spent hours carefully planting actually sprouting leaves to make you breathe a sigh of relief. Whew!

Otherwise, we’ve got mulch everywhere prepping wildflower beds to replace swaths of grass, as well as vegetable beds weeded and prepped for summer planting. Not much excitement in the picture department there, but I’m going to give you pictures, anyway:

That’s about it for homestead updates. Now, what are we doing to stay home, stay healthy, and stay sane around here? You see much of our occupation above, which does a heck of a job curbing stress and anxiety, but we’re doing more than gardening, too.

Firstly, we’re calling and communicating with people more often. I’m not much of a phone talker, but I need human interaction of some kind on a daily basis – I learned this early in my decision to work mostly from home. Without even the little bits of human interaction I’d get from shopping for supplies, talking with my kitchen owner, or subbing at the school at this time, I need something beyond texting.

So, we’ve been playing video trivia and video games with friends (y’all, Animal Crossing was amazing before this craziness, and now it’s vital), watching movies over video chat, calling our families more than once a week, and just talking as face-to-face as possible. Call your folks if you haven’t. Plan a video celebration. Do something with people, even if it’s just over the phone, just to have something to celebrate.

Secondly, we’re living off of what we have as much as possible. It’s a heck of a time just before we get our chickens (rats!), or else we’d probably be able to avoid the stores altogether, save for milk (and we could likely get it delivered anyway).

This practice is beneficial, twofold: one, we avoid going into public more often than is absolutely necessary, which is a stressful experience all around. With limited numbers of people allowed inside, visions of cashiers dressed in gloves and hospital masks, and many people not taking social distancing seriously when they’re inside, I’m glad to avoid the enclosed spaces as much as possible, while also avoiding possible spread.

Two, we get creative in using what we have, and only what we have. Get what you need for at least two weeks (seriously, y’all – quit going to the store weekly, or more than weekly, or more than one store), and see what you can make – you might surprise yourself. There is serious self-satisfaction in depending on yourself and your reserves to nourish your family, rather than multiple trips to a store or restaurant takeout. (It’s also kinder to your wallet!)

Check out how to build up a good, solid pantry here.

Thirdly, we get outside. I’ve lost count at how many times I’ve said this in the last month, but dang, I’m glad the weather’s been nice here. We’re blessed with a property full of gardening chores to complete, as well as walking access to the Blue Ridge Parkway and a couple of horse farms from where we live. Our neighbors have the same idea, and we’re able to talk (at least six feet away, usually yelling across the street) and trade veggies and supplies with them.

If you can, walk outside. Forage, even if you’re just foraging for pretty flowers. Open a window. Get out of your own head. Get out of the way of the news, Netflix, and electronics. Nature’s coming back, y’all, and you should go see it.

Fourthly, we’re spending quality time together. Yes, we’re watch Hulu and playing video games, but we’re also cooking more together, playing board games, and reading together. (If you haven’t read a Shakespeare play with your spouse, you’re seriously missing out. Nerds.) Meaningful conversation without distractions, especially of the electronic kind, is an amazing thing: problems are solved more quickly, and we know when to give the other space. It’s also, y’know, fun to put together a puzzle with another human.

Finally, we’re working and volunteering. There’s nothing like keeping busy in a meaningful way to keep stress at bay, and I know for me, I feel less helpless if I’m, well, helping out. For example, our food bank has more mouths to feed than ever (especially children outside of school, who depend on school lunches for sustenance), so they need more help from healthy volunteers. Even though the work is related to the virus, I don’t think about it constantly as I help out: instead, I feel like I’m actually doing something outside of myself, and I’m getting to chat normally with people in the process.

If you’re feeling stressed and helpless throughout all of this madness, and are young and healthy, check out what your community needs right now, and see how you can help. Do what you feel comfortable and safe doing, but I promise you, you’ll feel worlds better about the world if you volunteer for something that helps.

Out of all of this, we’re benefiting most from connection with others in a time of disconnect, as well as disconnecting from the crap that stresses us out the most as much as we can. Many of our decisions in the last year – downsizing my official work hours (and pay, and everything that goes with that), working electronically from home, and focusing on building our homestead, have prepared us somewhat for what’s happening now.

I’m hoping that the learned benefits from this crisis – cherishing what’s actually important (seeing and hugging friends), depending on ourselves and our local communities for support (emphasis on local), and doing less of the crap that harms the environment (e.g., driving unnecessarily, buying useless packaged stuff on a daily basis, constant air travel, etc.) – carry over after the madness ends.

Stay safe, stay healthy, and stay home, folks!

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