Monthly Archives: July 2021

COVID on the Homestead: Gratitude Amidst the Challenges

Counting My Chickens

My gardens! My poor, poor gardens! Summer was in full swing, pestilence and plant fungus had been miraculously kept to manageable levels. My cucumbers were on the precipice of producing a ridiculous bumper crop of glorious Straight Eights and Marketmores. Cantaloupe vines were lush, with baby loupes swelling everywhere.

Plans were in place for a big old bread and butter pickle canning session last Saturday.  We were going to have those awesome little slices of summer with our Christmas dinner this year! One afternoon of hot, hard work for a whole year of the best pickles ever preserved.

The Viral Monkey Wrench…
Partially recovered, hanging with the cantaloupes

Enter COVID. Friday, my last day of work before a weekend off with no call. Late that afternoon, I felt it: That “Oh, crap, I’m getting sick” feeling. I knew exactly what it was. The rapid test Saturday morning confirmed it. And so began my quarantine…

Another family member was asymptomatic, but had no sense of smell or taste. In very short order, our entire household of seven souls went down. We were all quite miserable, but fortunately no major health crises ensued. We are one full week in now; everyone is recovering, but the lingering hacking, shortness of breath, and fatigue after small chores is pretty irritating. We truly dodged a bullet.

For four full days, all I could do was lie in bed, fan blowing directly on my face (100° outside, metal-box camper with totally inadequate AC), and stare out my window at my neglected greenhouse between long naps.

The Virus and the Damage Done

I think it was Tuesday when I finally braved a (very short) stroll around the gardens and greenhouse to survey the damage. Squash bugs had totally destroyed two zucchini plants and were working on my pumpkin. I STILL haven’t been out back to see the spaghetti squash. I’m afraid to look.

Tomatoes have some type of fungus going on and the aphids are just Biblical in their proliferative abilities. I’ve lost 2 plants and will probably lose a couple more tomato plants soon.

I missed a full week of blackberry picking. Pounds and pounds of beautiful berries left to rot and ferment on the vine.

The cucumbers, though! They are another problem entirely. I had already dehydrated more cucumber chips than we will ever eat. We deep-fried cucumber spears like fried green tomatoes (actually not bad!). Today I made a big batch of lactofermented bread and butter pickles (Not enough energy for a full-on canning day!), cucumber salad till we are blue in the face, and I STILL have a good 15-20# I don’t know what to do with!

The Good Outweighs the Bad

Yes, the grass is thigh-high in places. Money will be pretty tight these next couple weeks. I will likely want to cry when I have to compost the cukes I can’t process (COVID germs–I can’t in good conscience give them away!). So much work has been done here this summer with so very little to show for it. For a family with a goal of self-sufficiency, it feels almost like a failure, even though the circumstances were far beyond our control.

But you know what? We don’t actually HAVE to be self-sufficient this summer. I can still go to the grocery store and get what we are needing. We will go on. My coworker lost her dad to this damn disease. Many of my “recovered” patients are truly struggling weeks and months later, some succumbing to other comorbidities.

There will NOT be an empty place setting at our 3rd annual Thanksgiving In The Greenhouse because of this virus. I still have the six people I love more than Life itself here with me, struggling, laughing, and upholding each other. NOTHING is more important than this.

We win, COVID.

1st Annual Thanksgiving in the Greenhouse

Instant Manifestation Made to Order!

–Law of Attraction and Miska’s Perfectly Timed Arrival
Miska, the constantly moving puppy!

I know it may not make sense to most people to bring a new puppy into the fold so soon after unexpectedly losing our sweet Luna (See “The Rainbow Bridge” for Luna’s story).

But sometimes the Universe arranges things just so, and you know they are simply meant to be. This was one of those times.

We lost Luna 4th of July weekend. That next week was rough for all of us. We felt heavy and sad, missing our loving friend, and I kept replaying the discovery of her broken, lifeless body over and over in my mind.

A Little History

When I started travel nursing almost five years ago, one of the first things I did was gift myself a dog. This dog was going to be MY dog. I anticipated my new role as “dog mom” with great excitement. I made decisions about the size of dog I wanted, it’s temperament, and intelligence (I often referred to Dobby as my “empty nest” dog!). After a great deal of reading and researching, I decided on the Rat Terrier breed (Side note here: I have since become more aware of the number of incredible “mutts” that are overrunning shelters. And of puppy mills. Had I understood back then, I would not have looked for a purebred. But I did, and I am head over heels in love with my Dobby. So here we are…).

“Just Putting It Out There”

In the past we had discussed adding another dog to the homestead, but the consensus was that it wouldn’t be until our old, sweet, tired Mama dog, Babycakes, passed. We never thought that a healthy two-year-old dog would be the one leaving an empty space in our family.

Mike and I were driving back roads, talking about Luna about a week after she died. We discussed the idea of getting another dog, but neither one of us was completely invested in that thought. I had casually looked at some Rat Terrier breeders the day before and immediately determined that I was not shelling out hundreds of dollars for another purebred. We all love the Rat Terrier breed, though: Smart as a whip, comical, small enough to easily handle, and loyal to a fault. Yet we also know that we understand dog behavior and training very well, especially after seeing the beautiful healing we helped Luna achieve. And we certainly don’t need a pedigree for a dog to be “acceptable” to us.

We then decided that while we WANTED another Rat Terrier, we would leave it to the Universe to bring our next companion to us at the perfect time in the perfect way, leaving no doubt that it was destined to be ours all along. No resistant thought. No painful, aching, longing to find our next pet. No hours-long Google searches for breeders. We expressed our desires with no thought as to when or how this would occur; We simply stated what we wanted and left it at that, confident that it would all work out.

Easy As Pie

After that conversation, the subject of getting another dog never came up again. A couple nights later, I was up at 3:00 a.m., getting ready for work. Mike texted me to see if coffee was done; he wanted to stop over before I left.

I figured he had worked on some house plans and wanted to show me. Wrong. In strolls Mike with the cutest little brown and white puppy and the biggest smile on his face. On the way to fireworks the night before, they saw a stray Border Collie walking along the road. Mike’s wife and kids went gaga over it. Mike simply said, “No.”

From the back seat, the kids’ little friend pipes up: “Are you guys looking for a puppy? We have one left and my dad says she has to go. It’s a small dog.” So after fireworks Mike grudgingly takes the family to the girl’s house to see the puppy, dreading having to be the bad guy who says no. Puppy’s parents are both on the premises, and of course, they are both Rat Terriers! Mike is now frantically trying to think of a reason why this just isn’t a good idea. It’s so sudden. Both mom and dad are sociable and well-adjusted. Puppy is 12 weeks old, old enough to go to a new home. She is healthy. She is lovable. She is smart. And……she is ours. For free! And this is how Mike and I manifested the dog we wanted. It is so amazing to realize that we wanted a Rat Terrier, and we didn’t have to do a single thing to get her. Mike was going to drop this little girl off at her home whether or not there was a dog there.

The Little Healer

We all love our Miska. Tending to the needs of a new little one has helped us all work through some of our grief over losing Luna. This is especially true for Luna’s Person, Herm. Having a new puppy to fuss over has given him an outlet for the love he used to shower on Luna. Before Miska came, it was hard for any of us to talk about Luna. But Miska is making it easier to talk about old fond memories, and it doesn’t hurt as much to mention Luna’s name anymore.

Another blessing is enjoying the way Miska is exhibiting many of the same quirky behaviors Dobby had when he was a puppy: The way she zips around, tunneling under blankets, how she loves being wrapped up and snuggling with her people, and her adoration and veneration of the squeaky mini tennis ball Herm gave her is fun to observe. It is such a joy to see her doing the same things that endeared Dobby to us when he was a puppy.

Finding Her Place

The past couple weeks have been a difficult time for both the human and dog population on the Homestead. Our canine friends have had their stability ripped from them-a once cohesive pack has both lost and gained a new member nearly overnight. The dogs are doing well, and we haven’t had any major issues, but we also understand that it will take some time for all of them to find balance and security again. We figure we are looking at a few weeks to a few months until everyone settles in.

We joyfully welcome our newest family member, Miska, and we will always remember and appreciate the incredible way the Universe arranged everything for us to come together.


Miska has been with us for a couple weeks now, and has totally settled in. Dobby still grumbles about her occasionally, but he often acts like a cranky old man anyway, so no surprise there. Housebreaking was nearly effortless. She is smart, happy, confident, and loves everybody. We are so glad she made her way to us.

The Rainbow Bridge

What we have once enjoyed we can never lose; All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.

Helen Keller
Best Buds: Dobby (L) and Luna (R)

I ask your indulgence today as I jot down some memories of our girl, Luna. After three days of frantic searching, I found her lifeless body on the side of the road Sunday. She startled at some bottle rockets (Family mistakenly thought she was inside), bolted, and was hit by a car.

Luna came to us three years ago, a six-month old bundle of nerves and anxiety. My ex and I were traveling around the country while I did my travel nursing thing. Around Christmastime in 2018 I was working a gig in Savannah, GA. Dobby had been our travel buddy for about a year by then, and it worked out so well that I gave Herm (my ex) Luna as a Christmas gift.

A Dubious Beginning
Enjoying the surf @ Hilton Head

Luna was supposed to be a show dog, but apparently didn’t have the temperament for it. When I went to the handler’s house to pick her up that Sunday, the cause of her issues were glaringly apparent. My money was taken, papers were shoved at me, and a cowering little beauty was roughly removed from a cage and thrust into my arms. The handler then abruptly turned on her heels and went inside. Thus began Luna’s new life.

Upon arrival to the camper, Luna nipped both Herm and me out of uncontrollable fear. She became pretty comfortable with Herm after a couple days, but I was unable to get near her for three full weeks. I absolutely terrified her, and it broke my heart. But given enough sweet talk and treats, Luna eventually came around and began trusting me also.

Travel Buddies

Dobby and Luna were the perfect road trip companions for a couple of older people traveling in a camper. We enjoyed exploring our new digs with them. They never threw up and never had accidents, although Luna did go through a “chew up ALL of Mom’s blankets and sheets” phase.

Dobby and Luna got along splendidly and were inseparable, often snuggling together in the dog sling in the back seat as we drove, drove, drove.

Coming Home
One of Luna’s favorite spots.

I knew that when I hung up my traveling shoes and came home permanently, Luna would have some challenges. She was very intimidated by people and loud noises, and overwhelmed by the other animals. She began hiding in the bedroom whenever family came to the camper.

Everyone was so patient and understanding with her. It became a family goal to help Luna overcome her traumas and fears and live a happy life. Luna was surrounded with love and gentle encouragement, and was never pushed beyond her level of comfort. With time, she came to trust us, and her beautiful, loving nature blossomed. She started standing up to our canine bully, Molly. Her playful side emerged, and she would find great joy in stealing Dobby’s toys, dropping them elsewhere, and then walking away. Her full-body contortions and stealthy, surprise nostril kisses on my arrival home from work erased any stress I’d bring home with me. And the last thunderstorm she experienced found her calm and unconcerned instead of frantic, trembling, and panting.

Luna was finally living her best life. I take comfort in knowing until her last moments, she was surrounded by love and security. The events leading to her death were completely unintentional and accidental, but devastating to all of us nonetheless.

After three days of searching, calling out, and flooding local Facebook pages, coming home from work on the 4th I had an impulse to take the longer back road home. I knew I was going to find Luna on that drive. I kept visualizing seeing a frightened, bedraggled rat terrier wandering around and the joyous homecoming that would await us.

But unfortunately, this was not to be. As soon as I saw the white body in the ditch, my powers of denial went into overdrive.

Pulling the truck over: Don’t worry. It could be any animal. It’s probably not Luna.

Walking the 100 feet: See? It’s darker than Luna. Yeah, it’s about her size, but it’s not her.

By the time I got there I was begging that body not to be Luna. Not until I was finally able to see the brown markings on her face…then I knew. As painful as it was to find her like that, I am thankful that her death appeared to be instant. And we are not still trolling back roads, calling her name, always wondering.

So for now, Luna, play and run with your new friends. Keep chasing those chickens out of the gardens. Listen in when we remember you fondly. In time, we will all be together again. Until then, you remain alive in our hearts and our memories. Thank you for Be-ing with us!