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

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