Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Activities for Sheltering in Place

We've entered a new stage of life for all of us worldwide this week. The coronavirus (COVID-19), which I will abbreviate as CV, has impacted us all, and we're just in the beginning stages of dealing with it here in the United States.

I've always seen our country as being strong and resilient, but right now, the world is watching and we're whining about having to stay home with our kids.

When did "home" become a bad place to be? Why aren't our homes our sanctuaries and safe places? [And yes, I'm well aware that there are homes out there that aren't so safe or happy, but this blog post isn't directed to those.]

As I've watched this story unfold, I've seen countless memes and posts about things to do while we're "stuck at home." I've seen things like cleaning, organizing, binging on Netflix or family movies, homeschool, and as of last night, even putting out Christmas decorations. While none of these activities are bad, I'd like to recommend some other activities to make the most of this time.

The CV is not going away overnight. This outbreak, and the lingering effects of the outbreak, are not like a southern snow storm where we stay inside our houses for three days, build snowmen, go nuts for a time, watch as the snow and ice melt, and then head back to work and our normal lives. This is not the case with CV.

Now is the time to think LONG TERM about what this causes and how it will impact our daily lives, our daily well-being. Recovery will take time - recovery of illness, recovery of lost jobs and/or lost wages, recovery from loss - loss of people, loss of experiences, loss of milestones, loss of opportunities, loss of time. Depression will likely set in like never before.

But we can get a headstart on dealing with these eventualities by taking action now. Here are some ideas you can start doing right now:

1) Plant a garden.

I ordered these heirloom vegetable seeds this week, concerned that prices might rise if I waited too long. Another pack had risen dramatically, so it made sense to order now. And with the arrival of spring, it's time to get ready. I'll be a little late in starting seeds, but at this point, I can't worry about that. I just have to start now.

With heirloom seeds, you can save seeds from the produce or plants, and use them for next year's garden.

You don't need a farm or large acreage to grow food. One of my favorite books on this subject, and a go-to book for millions, is the The Backyard Homestead: How to Produce All the Food You Need on a Quarter Acre. But if you live in the city, or don't have access to land, you can still grow food in containers. There are several helpful books for this, even on Kindle, including: The Vegetable Container Gardening Guide: How to Grow Food in a Container Garden, and How to Grow Potatoes: Planting and Harvesting Organic Food from Your Patio, Rooftop, Balcony, or Backyard Garden. Lots of others, but this will be a good start.

Learning how to garden makes a great family project - even in the research and planning. Get your family involved and let family members pick some of the produce.  This will help them take ownership in the success of your garden.

I also got some gardening soil. We're currently at my sister's and mom's house, and they have a fenced backyard that we may end up utilizing, but for now, we're going to grow as much as we can in a raised bed garden and in flower pots of all shapes and sizes, and a few 5-gallon buckets for potatoes and tomatoes.

I'm honestly not sure if we have enough, but it's better than nothing.

As your garden grows, learn about canning and freezing and preserving the food.

2) What about Protein? Have you ever considered raising chickens? I've thought about it for years, but I think I'm afraid of them. (My son laughs at my fear!) But I read someone's post yesterday and learned there's such a thing as "gentle, sweet" chickens, so I'm now exploring that. I just don't want to get in a chicken fight! Chickens provide eggs almost all year long, and reproduce so you can use some for meat and keep some for laying eggs. Both great sources of protein.

Do you own a rifle? Learning how to shoot it and how to kill wildlife for food would be beneficial. I love critters, so please don't attack me for suggesting this. But if you need to feed your family, this is something to consider. But please, please follow guidelines, seasons, and limits, because they were all put into place for a reason. And be sure you have a hunting license, too.

What about fishing? Do you own fishing tackle? (Fishing line and a hook is all you need, but a fishing rod and reel actually makes it a little easier and more fun.) I bought myself a Zebco 33 reel for my birthday a couple of years ago - Zebco 33 has always been my favorite reel, so when I needed a new one, I just replaced it. They also have a rod and reel combo with the platinum version, too.

Do you have enough property for a goat or two? They produce milk and can provide protein if you choose that route.

3) Learn how to do something you've never done before. We're cooks in our family, so asking these next two questions is odd for me, but do you know how to cook? Do your children know how to cook? And I don't mean cooking boxed or canned goods. I'm talking about real cooking. Maybe now is the time to learn how to bake bread, or make cinnamon rolls. Start with basics though - like scrambled eggs. Do you and your children know how to scramble eggs? boil eggs? poach eggs? fry eggs? (One of my favorite movie scenes is in Runaway Bride when Julie Roberts' character realizes she doesn't know which kind of egg is her favorite.) In recent years, I've taught myself how to make risotto that Gordon Ramsay might possibly praise (okay, maybe I'm dreaming, but it's really great!), I've learned how to bake artisan bread, and will be making my very sourdough starter for the first time this week.

What about candles? We made candles when we homeschooled, and it was fun and easy to do. We tried different methods with them, too, so we had variety.

One of my next projects is learning how to make soap. I've been exploring options - goat milk, donkey milk, coconut milk, essential oils - to find out what might work best for different things. I was gifted with some donkey milk soap, and my skin loves it. I could probably go broke buying all the fun soap making supplies, but I understand it can be made just as easily with only the basics. So I'm exploring what to do first.

Have you ever made your own laundry detergent or shampoo? I've made homemade laundry detergent before, but I need to explore that some more, because we weren't thrilled with the first batch. It didn't seem to get the clothes very clean, so I need to find a better recipe. But I have been making my own shampoo (from the Wellness Mama - great resource for lots of things!) for a couple of years, and still love it. The kind I make right now uses coconut milk but I am also considering using goat milk in the future.

What about woodcarving or leather crafting? Tim has started woodcarving the last couple of years and he loves it. My family gave him some woodcarving tools for Christmas and he's been working on replacing some kitchen knife handles for my sister.

Learn first aid. How to splint broken bones, stop blood from flowing, and so much more. These kinds of skills could come in handy.

Now is a great time to set up a new exercise routine. Go back to the basics - calisthenics like we did in school. Lift weights.

Journaling is also a good, and helpful, practice. Not only will you be recording history as it unfolds before us, but writing down everything going will help you remember later, and will help you process everything as it happens. (Shameless plug: I have several prayer journals and a Bible reading journal that might be of use. You'll find them on my Amazon author page.)

Don't forget art - oil, acrylic, or watercolor painting, sketching, photography, dancing, music, writing, pottery, sculpture. I'll do a separate post on that later, because this one is long enough, and the subject of art is massive.

There are so many sources available in books and online to learn about everything under the sun. YouTube can be your friend, and so can Kindle. Some libraries are offering whole collections of books online now. If you can't find something, ask me. I'd love to help you find something you want to learn about.

My whole point is - use this time wisely. Think of the coming months and how life could change for all of us. Everything I've mentioned above could be used to provide for your family in some way, either through sales, services, or bartering. Learning new skills provides you with skills others may not have. Teaching your kids skills will prepare them better for life.

My friend Gina wrote a comment on a Facebook post just as I was finishing up this article, and it summed everything up so well, I asked for permission to share. Gina wrote: "Great good will come at the end of this. Although it will not be easy. Many people will die. There will be years of hardship. But adversity is what the greatest generation was made from. At the end of this, manufacturing jobs will come back to our country. We will be growing our own food again. Parents will be raising their own kids because they can now. We will realize our own potential and self sufficiency . And hopefully, most importantly, we will come back to God. He desperately wants us to."

Indeed. Thanks, Gina.

Let's dig in and do this, and come out on the other side better than ever before.

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