A Taste of Normal

We received our first COVID vaccine shot almost three weeks ago, so we are feeling a bit braver than before about venturing out.

This week, we went shopping. And I don’t mean grocery shopping.

My husband decided he needed some new clothes. After all, it’s been only two, maybe three years since he’s ventured into a clothing store. D’you think maybe it’s about time?

Unlike me, he does not believe in buying clothes at the local thrift store. “Who knows who has worn those?” he asks. “That’s why I wash everything before I wear it,” I reply. “Besides, I’m doing something good for the environment by not buying clothes that have been made by some poor overworked, underpaid woman in Bangladesh labouring away in some dingy and dangerous factory that then requires emitting who-knows-how-many tonnes of greenhouse gases into the air to ship said clothes across the Pacific (or through the now-unblocked Suez Canal) to Canada.” (See my earlier post about “upcycling.”)

No, my husband buys his clothes new. Off we went to our local not-Walmart clothing store that specializes in casual and work wear for men and women.

Who knew trying to decide between this brand of pants and that brand of pants could be so much fun? Or this shade of green T-shirt versus that shade of green? Socks with psychedelic patterns or boring old grey socks? Plaid shorts or plain? Hiking boots or just a good quality pair of running shoes?

An hour-an-a-half later, we hauled our – his – stash to the check-out. The clerk smiled as she scanned the tags. “Men go shopping once a year,” she said. Oh, so true. A few hundred dollars later, we left the store.

This taste of something approaching “normal” life was certainly tantalizing. The question is: how long do we have to wait before this “taste” becomes “everyday?”

Alas, COVID variants are running amok here. The B117 (UK) variant is now the dominant strain in Alberta, and the P.1 (Brazil) strain has just raised its ugly head in a “significant outbreak” in three communities. Hospital beds, especially ICU beds, are filling rapidly with younger patients, and doctors and nurses are warning of looming disaster if serious steps are not taken to break the curve. Our Alberta politicians have finally woken up to the fact that encouraging citizens to “do the right thing” is totally inadequate because many stubbornly refuse to “do the right thing.” As of a couple of days ago, they imposed additional restrictions on restaurants, gyms, stores and public gatherings. Only time will tell if those restrictions will have any impact.

We may have to wait a few more months for our little outing to become “everyday,” but at least we’ve had a taste. And how delightful it was!

#PostPandemicShopping #ManShopping #ClothesShopping #COVIDVariants #MargaretGHanna

Freedom!

My husband and I received our first COVID vaccine shot (Moderna) on Tuesday. I have never been so excited about getting a poke in the arm.

My husband has numerous pre-existing conditions, so this past year we have been exceedingly cautious. Some have called us “prisoners.” We’ve called ourselves “prudent.”

Our only regular outing has been to the grocery store, always at “Old Farts” hours (7:00 am to 8:00 am), and after we’ve put away the groceries, I’ve wiped down every surface we’ve touched (and any we thought we might have touched). When absolutely essential, we’ve visited the doctor and dentist. Even more rarely, we’ve ventured into hardware stores or the post office. We’ve ordered on-line to be delivered and ordered for curb-side pickup. We’ve quarantined mail and parcels for three days once we’ve brought them into the house. We’ve social-distanced, worn masks (long before our fair city decreed it obligatory), used hand sanitizer and wipes, and washed our hands till we thought the skin would fall off (or run out of soap, whichever came first).

But now! Now it feels as if we have left prison and are living in the half-way house. Freer, although not entirely free. We will still wear masks (we’re double-masking now that the “variants of concern” are running amok), we will still social-distance; we will still be careful about where we go and when we go there.

But now! Now, we can visit friends and relatives. Maybe I will work up the courage to venture into my favourite shopping venue – our local thrift store. And maybe get a real haircut and . . . .

We don’t know when we will receive our second Moderna shot. The Canadian government has royally screwed up the vaccine situation, leaving us dependent on the good graces of other countries. But we – my husband and I – are on our way.

Yay, freedom!

BUT that freedom has come at great cost. Over 22,250 people have died in Canada and millions around the world. “Long-haulers” continue to suffer COVID symptoms with no relief in sight. Front line workers suffer from exhaustion and burn-out, or PTSD, or worse still have died of COVID. Millions have lost jobs or businesses because of COVID. Millions are hungry or homeless because of COVID. Uncounted numbers have committed suicide because of COVID.

The moral of the pandemic is this: none of us will be free until everyone is free. So, don’t dilly-dally. Get that vaccine as soon as you can. Help us all be free.

#COVID #Pandemic #COVIDVaccine #Freedom #ModernaVaccine #NotesFromIsolationWard #MargaretGHanna

Good-bye 2020

This has been one @#$%^ of a year. SARS-CoV-2 came storming in and stomped on, shattered, crumpled and otherwise destroyed and threw out the window every dream and plan we had for 2020. It trashed weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, family gatherings, trips to the mall, meeting up with buddies at the local watering hole, graduations, school, playtime, and then, to add insult to injury, prevented us from gathering to mourn the loved ones it snatched from us.

It made us stand apart, stop hugging, stop holding hands, fear the very air we breathe. It divided us into tribes: pro-maskers vs. anti-maskers, the virus is real vs. the virus is fake, the stay-at-homers vs. the go-out-and-partyers.

People lost jobs and businesses and homes; people cued for hours for a bag of groceries or a COVID test. Parents working from home had to juggle work with home-schooling their children.

It’s been a year of seemingly unprecedented racial violence, of demonstrations and counter-demonstrations, tyrants clinging to power, wars, mass murders, mass kidnappings, famines, etc. etc.

As if that weren’t bad enough, we’ve been pummeled with one disaster after another. Wild fires that threaten to devour the whole world, and hurricanes and tornadoes and plow winds and hail storms that demolish everything in their wake. We’ve been left homeless, bereft, bruised and battered.

But not without hope.

Hope is the one thing that has carried us through this terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad year. This isn’t an airy-fairy, pie-in-the-sky kind of hope. It is hope borne of a million random acts of kindness and generosity by neighbours, and even strangers, who look out for one another. It is hope borne of the knowledge that we have fallen on our face before and, like the words in Frank Sinatra’s song, picked ourselves us, brushed ourselves off and started all over again. We know, in our heart of hearts, that we can survive now because we have survived before.

It is hope borne of the courage of so many people who have continued to serve in the face of this scourge, people who have put their lives on the line for us and, alas, have often lost them. People, such as those who work in hospitals and clinics – nurses, doctors, cleaners, cooks, EMT personnel, maintenance personnel and suppliers. Civic workers who pick up the garbage, drive transit, keep the heat and power and water flowing, clean the streets, patrol the neighbourhoods and fight fires. People who work in grocery stores and pharmacies and department stores and gas stations, and the truck drivers who bring the stock to those stores. Business owners who care enough to make their premises safe for those who venture in.

It is also the hope borne of promised salvation. Two vaccines have been approved, others are coming. This does not mean that SARS-CoV-2 will be immediately or even permanently vanquished. We’ve fought that long-term fight before, too: smallpox was eradicated only after a long, concerted, multi-nation battle; tuberculosis and polio have been beaten back but not banished and we’ve learned to live with them. What the vaccines mean is that we can now breathe more easily, we can hope more strongly.

It is fitting, if entirely coincidental, that vaccines are being approved in December – the darkest time of the year when it seems night has won over day, and darkness over light. Since time immemorial, societies in northern latitudes have gathered during these darkest days to conduct ceremonies to lure the sun back and to ensure that Earth’s wintery death is only temporary. These festivals of lights beat back darkness and death just a little bit and remind us that, yes indeed, light and life will return. Now, the promise of light has come to us in the form of a tiny bottle of serum.

We’ve even invented a new “ceremony of life” surrounding the first recipient of the vaccine. It’s the same everywhere, no matter who the first recipient is or where it occurs. The TV cameras are there to record it, the person is surrounded by nurses and co-workers, the inoculation is given, everyone bursts into applause and cheers, and the recipient gives a little speech. Each time we witness this, we affirm that COVID is being beaten back, even if only just a tiny bit, and that light is returning.

We’re not there yet. Darkness still surrounds us. We’ve a long path ahead but we know the light is returning. As long as we have hope and courage and stamina, as long as we continue to support each other, the light will return.

Hold the faith, dear readers.

#Hope #Sacrifice #HelpingFriends #HelpingNeighbours #Caring #Future #2020 #COVID #SARS-CoV-2 #WinterSolstice #Pandemic #MargaretGHanna

Chronos or Kairos?

Einstein was right — Time is elastic!

Some moments or hours seem like an eternity. Or else they zip by, compressed into nanoseconds.

We waste time, make time, take time, kill time, save time, “A stitch in time . . .”

We are obsessed with time. It’s in our pockets and on our wrists. It reigns over our homes and workplaces — grandfather clocks, mantel clocks, wall clocks, digital, analogue, quartz, wind-up, electric, battery-operated. They tic-toc, chime, bong, cuckoo, beep, buzz, and twitter. We have calendars and daytimers and automatic reminders on our computers and smartphones and smart watches. We have become like the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland — always late for a very important date.

Or at least we think it’s important.

We have become so obsessed with Chronos — a specific amount of time like an hour — that we have forgotten about Kairos — that things happen when the time is right, when the stars are properly aligned, when conditions are right.

Trees put out their leaves when the temperature is warm enough, the sun high enough and the day long enough, not because their daytimer says, “May 5, 9:00 am, Thou shalt spring forth leaves.”

The seeds we plant each spring poke a scouting leaf above ground and decide either, “Nope, too cold, wait a bit,” or “Yep, let’s go for it!”

Flower buds slowly grow and swell until one beautiful warm sunny day, as we scurry by, they suddenly spring open and we stop in amazement and stare at the most beautiful rose we’ve ever seen, and all that fuss and bother that we were so fussed and bothered about vanishes, and we stop and smell and breathe, and for once we are living in the moment. We are living in Now.

We are living in Kairos.

#Time #Chronos #Kairos #LivingInNow #ObsessedWithTime #Meditation #Contemplation #MargaretGHanna

Family Gatherings in the Time of COVID

ClaytonCouleeView7My husband’s family still owns the quarter-section (160 acres, about 80 hectares) that their grandfather homesteaded over 100 years ago. It is mostly farmland with some pasture and, in prairie parlance, a “coulee” that cuts across the southern part of the quarter-section.

About 50 years ago, my husband’s father decided to build a family campground in the coulee. Over the next 10 years or so, they built a cook-out shelter for the barbeques, a camp kitchen, a couple of tiny sleeping huts (one recently restored, the other still derelict), and – wonder of wonders – a shower room and a flush toilet (Ooooh! Aaaaw!) Yes, they had piped water down from the farmstead up on the prairie level, but it is non-drinkable, good only for washing and flushing the aforesaid toilet. There used to be electricity until a Richardson’s Ground Squirrel thought the buried cable might be a tasty snack and got fried in the process. At least, we think that’s what happened.

ClaytonCouleeView18

Over the years, the campground has been the venue for impromptu wiener roasts, family gatherings, weddings, birthday parties, and what have you. We’ve shared laughter, stories, jokes, debates and an awful lot of food. It’s been a refuge from the hustle and bustle of the frenetic city and working life.

It hasn’t been a refuge from COVID.

05_GatheringForPatWe had a small family gathering of 20 people this past weekend. COVID changed the dynamics. We couldn’t hug each other as we arrived and, later, when we left (air hugs just don’t cut it). We couldn’t mingle or stand elbow-to-elbow to regale each other with the latest goings-on. We couldn’t share snacks or sample someone’s craft beer. We couldn’t sit with whomever we wanted to eat supper. We couldn’t crowd around the campfire as the night air cooled. 

And try as we might, even with only 20 people in a large open space, it was really difficult to maintain our one caribou/one hockey stick/ two meters/six feet distancing. We continually migrated towards each other, pulled together by some unseen yet irresistible gravitation force, ruptured only when someone woke up and yelled, “Distance!”

Thankfully, COVID, try as it might, could not fracture the comradery, the sense of belonging and the joy of gathering with family. We could still share stories and laugh and debate. We could still reminisce about the past and hope for better times to come.

In that regard, we conquered COVID.

Next year, we’ll hug and mingle and share food and . . .

#COVID #Pandemic #FamilyGatherings #SocialDistancing #MargaretGHanna

The Fellowship of Food

I’m on a liquid diet these days (I’ll spare you the details of “why”). Fruit smoothies and soup blended to mush fill the stomach and nourish the body but they fail in one regard – they do not nourish the soul.

I miss texture. I miss the crunch of carrots and snap peas, the chewiness of good bread, the juicy explosion of cherry tomatoes, the annoyance of apple peel between my teeth, the fibrousness of a steak.

I miss the variety of flavours. Blended foods are blended flavours. Nothing stands out. Blueberries, bananas, papaya, kiwi become one. Same with stock and lentils and rice and cabbage and whatever other vegetables I put into the soup.

I miss the variety of colour. Stock soup is always brown; cream soup is always white. Fruit smoothies are some form of pinkish-bluish-white (I’m sure the paint stores have a fancy name for that colour).

What I miss most, though, in this time of COVID is the fellowship that attends food.

Food binds us together as family and community. ‘Breaking bread’ with someone may be a simple gesture, something of seemingly no great consequence, rather like hugging someone, but that act signifies so much:

We are friends.
We hold some values in common.
We have shared history and experience.
We can put our differences behind us for just this moment.
We trust each other.
We belong together.
We are part of something larger than ourselves.

All those young people you see on TV who are flocking to bars and beaches once they’re open? – they not just being “COVIDiots.” They are responding to the deep-seated, primal human drive to be with one another. They are celebrating an essential aspect of what it means to be human – to be part of something larger than themselves, to be part of community. Even as I shake my head, wondering “How can they be so careless! So negligent!” I envy them the joy and comradery they are experiencing.

A cup of coffee drunk alone is only a cup of coffee. Shared with a friend, it is laughter, stories, jokes, memories, and plans.

Just as a blended fruit smoothie is no substitute for the joy of eating each fruit individually, neither is food eaten alone a satisfactory substitute for the sense of belonging and oneness and joy that attends food eaten with friends and family.

Until my circumstances change, I will continue to “make do” with a liquid diet. And, until our circumstances change, we will continue to “make do” with vicarious virtual community.

Let’s hope those circumstances change sooner rather than later.

#Smoothies #LiquidDiet #FoodAsCommunity #SharingFood #FoodAndFamily  #NotesFromIsolationWard #HumansSocialBeings #LivingInCommunity #Contemplation #Meditation #COVID

Possible Death of Terrorist under Investigation

(Last week, I offered the challenge of writing COVID’s obituary. My obit turned into a newspaper report.)

tombstonePolice are continuing to investigate the disappearance and possible death of SARS-CoV-2, also known as COVID-19.

No body has yet been found, but COVID has not been seen anywhere for at least 14 days now.

Police are questioning a relative, Aunty Body, and her accomplice Vax Scene, as “persons of interest” in COVID’s disappearance. Two other individuals, Hi Dochs C. O’Quin and Rem D. Sever, have claimed responsibility but authorities have yet to find any evidence supporting those claims.

COVID’s origins are shrouded in mystery and controversy. Most agree he was born in China but his parentage is debated. One source claims he was the son of a laboratory worker, although this has been derided as a manufactured story. Other sources suggest he was the son of a vendor in a meat market, a story many find “batty.”

Debate still rages as to the veracity of either assertion.

Whatever the place and circumstances of his birth, COVID first appeared in Wuhan, the capital city of Hubei province of China. Within the space of three months, he was wrecking devastation around the world. No country was safe from his terror.

When asked to explain COVID’s murderous rampage, noted expert Dr. Epi DiMiologi said, “the most plausible hypothesis to date is sibling rivalry.” He pointed to the 2003 damage inflicted in places such as Toronto by an equally insidious terrorist known as SARS.

“As you can see, COVID and SARS share the same surname. If he really were the offspring of a lowly butcher, it is reasonable to assume he had an inferiority complex and decided to over-compensate by become even more insidious than his older brother.”

SARS attacked only about two dozen countries whereas COVID has afflicted countries on every continent except Antarctica.

Investigators point out that SARS and COVID would be, at best, half-brothers. SARS was born in Guangdong province in southern China whereas COVID was reportedly born in Hubei province in central China.

A terrorist investigator who spoke off the record stated that if SARS and COVID are indeed half-brothers, then “that father certainly got around!”

Leaders of some countries are suspected of being complicit in COVID’s reign of terror. Rather than attacking him with a forthright campaign, they characterized him as a petty thief of no consequence who would soon disappear. Unfortunately, this dismissal lead to confusion and mayhem which only facilitated COVID’s reign of terror.

Police are asking anyone with information about COVID’s whereabouts to contact them at 946-268-4319. If no further attacks occur within the next 14 days, then they will close the case file.

#TongueInCheek #COVID19 #Coronavirus #Pandemic #MargaretGHanna #EndOfCOVID #Fantasy #Humour # Fiction #FutureHope

Survival in the Time of COVID

Part 4: After COVID, Then What?

We are going through some truly “hard times.”

Mental and emotional stress is at epidemic proportions. Domestic violence is increasing as is the number of women murdered by their partners. We’re sleeping less, drinking more. Suicides are increasing. Young people, especially teen girls, are self-harming more. Distress hotlines are busier than ever. Xenophobia is rearing its ugly head.

We are under unmeasureable emotional and mental stress and not just because of the fear of catching the virus. There are rents and mortgages and bills to pay but no income; families to feed but no income; fear for our parents and grandparents in long-term care homes; the pain of not being with loved ones in their last days; and, for those who have to go to work, the fear of contracting COVID.

It may be difficult to believe when we are up to our ears in pandemic woes that we will endure, as did our ancestors. But endure we will, so what about the future? What will the world be like post-COVID? How will we be, post-COVID?

As I peer into my crystal ball, I see . . . only questions:

When can I hug my grandchildren?
When can I go to the baseball game? The hockey game? The football game?
When can my kids play with the neighbour’s kids?
When can we have our family reunion?
When can I go shopping at the mall with my friends? Have a beer with my buddies?
When will this end?
Will they find a cure? A vaccine?
When can I go back to work?

Perhaps we can glean some answers by a glance back at the past. How well did people recover from stress and deprivation when previous “hard times” ended?

There were both good and bad outcomes. The Spanish Flu did come to an end, although it took two years to disappear. Children who survived achieved lower levels of education and employment as adults. However, the epidemic fostered awareness of the importance of public health and spurred Canadian and European governments to create national health departments.

Perhaps one of the reasons the 1920s “roared,” at least for some people, was because people wanted to “actively forget” (as Nietzsche put it) the pain, suffering and horrors of both World War I and the Spanish Flu. It has often been called the Forgotten Pandemic – people seemed to have put it out of their minds so they could live fully in the present. And they went overboard in doing so.

Will COVID-19 also become a “forgotten pandemic?” Will we have a 21st century version of the Roaring Twenties, when the economy booms?

The Great Depression/Dirty Thirties ended in 1939 but the effects on those who lived through those hard times lingered on. I saw them in my own grandparents and parents. Grandma Hanna refused to pay a penny more than necessary for whatever she had to buy. My father kept every bit of broken machinery because, well, it just might be useful some day.

But the depression also brought about change. Communities formed credit unions when banks refused to loan money to struggling farmers and business owners. In the prairies, the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (later the New Democratic Party) and the Social Credit Party formed, each espousing a different approach to solving the economic woes of the Depression.

The SARS epidemic of 2003 also ended, even in the absence of a vaccine. However, it left about one-third of those quarantined with depression and PTSD. The rates were higher among those who tended the sick. Patients felt alone, even de-humanized. Alcohol use increased. But even so, most people showed tremendous resiliency and lived happy and fulfilling lives afterwards. And the medical profession learned many lessons about how to deal with a highly contagious disease, lessons that are relevant to today’s pandemic.

Those questions I asked earlier – they are primarily about being deprived of social contact. Being separated from family and friends is compounding economic stress. Our ancestors endured not just because of rationing or gardening or relief, although those were important. They endured because they were part of community. They had a support network of family, friends and neighbours. They met at grocery stores, the post office, the hardware store, the café, the church. They laughed together, cried together and shared what little they had.

Physical distancing denies us those essential support networks. We crave community. We crave a real shoulder to cry on or a real hug. Social media and virtual visits don’t provide the same emotional security and consolation that comes with physical contact.

In spite of how it feels, we are not alone. We are still part of community. We care for others and others care for us – witness the million little acts of kindness that happen everywhere, every day.

Think of the pandemic as a refining fire. It will change us, some more than others, some in different ways than others. That doesn’t mean it will defeat us.

It seems to boil down to this: Our future will be largely determined by what we dream it to be, and that in turn depends on our attitude to life in general. Are we glass-half-empty or glass-half-full people?

My vision of post-COVID life is this: One day, we will be back to work, bringing in an income, and ensuring security for ourselves and our families. One day, we will be able to hug each other. One day, we will be able to have a beer with our neighbours on the deck. One day, we can hang out with our buddies at the beach. That day will include a continuation of the kindness and generosity that has helped us get through these hard times.

Who knows how or when this pandemic will end, but it will. Hang in there, folks. We are more resilient than we imagine. Be kind to each other. Live in hope and faith.

Here’s a challenge for you: Write an obituary for COVID-19. How does what you have written reflect your vision of a post-COVID world?

#Coronavirus #COVID-19 #Pandemic #AfterCOVID #Hope #Resiliency #TogetherAgain #LivingInCommunity #

Survival in the Time of COVID

Part 3: Relief

Relief During the Great Depression

After the misery of World War I, the Spanish Flu and a brief recession, the Roaring Twenties blew in on a gust of exuberance and freedom. Women threw aside corsets and bobbed their hair. Speakeasies did a roaring business. The Charleston was the dance de jour. Industry flourished. Wealth grew. The world was our oyster and we lived it to the fullest. Nothing could stop us.

Or so we thought.

The Great Depression and the Dirty Thirties slammed into us with a hammer-blow. Industry shuttered. Savings vanished into a puff of nothingness. Millions were unemployed and road the rails in a fruitless search for work. Farmers watched fields and crops blow away. Only Russian Thistles, grasshoppers and army worms thrived.

No one had money, and even if you did, there was nothing to buy. In Canada, by 1933, 30 per cent of the labour force was out of work. Desperate times demanded desperate measures – relief of one sort or another. One in five Canadians became dependent upon government relief for survival.

Relief! To stubbornly independent and proud people such as my grandparents, it was a dirty word, smacking of failure, loser, inadequacy. Yet it was all they had to keep food on the table for there were no options. It was a bitter pill to swallow.

In the USA, President Roosevelt announced the New Deal which provided work and relief through projects such as the Public Works Administration, the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Rural Electrification Administration.

The Canadian federal government did little to alleviate suffering, off-loading the responsibility to provincial and local governments. In hard-hit Saskatchewan, the government funded relief work camps to upgrade highways. Payment was in the form of vouchers for groceries, medicine, binder twine, machinery repairs, clothing, fuel, kerosene and harness repairs. The Provincial Relief Commission processed requests from municipalities for seed grain, feed for livestock and food and clothing vouchers.

Soup kitchens fed the unemployed and hungry in cities. Men riding the rails marked the gates of homes where others could find a sandwich and maybe a barn loft in which to sleep – both my maternal and paternal grandparents’ farms were so marked. Churches and other organizations in less hard-hit areas shipped boxcar-loads of food and clothing westward. Stories still circulate of perplexed prairie wives trying to figure out how to cook slabs of salt cod from Newfoundland. My uncle tells of rotting apples and worn-out clothes that didn’t fit anyone in the family.

It took another war to end the Depression and the simultaneous return of rain to end the Dirty Thirties. Hard times were over.

Or so we thought.

Relief in the Time of COVID

Once again, we find ourselves in hard times. Unemployment rates haven’t been this high since the Great Depression. Thousands of businesses are on the verge of bankruptcy because of stay-at-home orders.

Unfortunately, work projects cannot be part of today’s relief response when proximity means danger. Instead, governments are providing businesses and workers with subsidies; the Paycheck Protection Program in the USA and the Canada Emergency Response Benefit in Canada are but the start of financial aid packages to tide people over, at least for a while.

Food banks have replaced soup kitchens but they are just as overwhelmed now as they were 90 years ago. In the USA, people wait in hours-long lines for a box of food. In Canada, food bank use has increased by 20% as of mid-April.

No matter how you sugar-coat it, relief is still a bitter pill to swallow. We want to work. We crave the satisfaction of a day’s work done, a cheque in the bank, bills paid, food on the table. We crave the respect of family and friends for being a productive member of society. We crave the self-esteem that comes from contributing to the well-being of our community.

Next: Surviving post-pandemic

* * *

Note: I grew up listening to my parents and grandparents talk about the “hard times” of the depression and drought. Those stories informed four chapters of “Our Bull’s Loose in Town!” Tales from the Homestead: “The Dirty Thirties,” “Living on Relief,” “The Plight of the Unemployed.,” and “The Year with No Crop.”

#COVID #Coronavirus #Pandemic #GovernmentRelief #GreatDepression #DirtyThirties #HardTimes #MargaretGHanna

Survival in the Time of COVID

Part 2: Gardening

It’s spring time, and people’s fancy turns to, no not THAT, to gardening.

Our grandparents lived the original “hundred mile diet.” Did they eat avocados in January? No. For that matter, did they even know what an avocado was? No!

Gardens_sm
The garden plots on the Hanna farm

They did know about gardening because, being farmers, they had huge gardens. We had two gardens which we switched between in alternate years, plus a huge potato patch just outside the farm yard. Even most people who lived in cities had some sort of garden.

During both world wars, every city, town and village had its “Victory Garden,” usually an unused plot of land. They were promoted as providing a healthy, patriotic activity, for more produce grown at home meant more produce shipped to the troops overseas. Although they were more of a symbolic rather than an actual benefit, people felt they were doing something tangible in defeating the enemy.

Gardening provided more than fresh vegetables during the growing season; it was the source of all vegetables and fruits that would be eaten during the winter. August was a mad house of canning – and once electricity arrived, freezing – the garden produce: peas, beans, carrots, corn, tomatoes, and beets. Root crops – potatoes, carrots, turnips, parsnips, onions – together with squash and cabbage went into the root cellar. Berries and apples became jams and jellies. Cucumbers became pickles. It was a matter of pride to have one’s cellar stacked from floor to ceiling with gleaming jars of preserves.

Now, we go to the store. It’s easier. And it makes us vulnerable.

Of course, there’s a significant difference between then and now. During the war periods, a large proportion of people lived in rural areas, either on farms or in villages and small towns, and city-dwellers lived predominately in single family homes. It was possible then for almost everyone to have a garden.

Today, the population is predominately urban, and many people live in high-density neighbourhoods – condos, townhouses or apartment buildings. It’s difficult to have a garden when you have only a tiny balcony, if that, for a couple of potted tomato plants.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
A few of the seeds we’ll be planting this spring

Limited garden space hasn’t stopped people this spring. Nurseries have never been more popular. Seed packets are as scarce as toilet paper. Bedding plants are flying out the doors. Cabbages are preferred to calendula, parsley to poppies.

A garden may ensure at least a small proportion of food but more important is the emotional and gustatorial satisfaction, a sense of accomplishment that no trip to the grocery store can match. And, as people will learn when they pick that first ripe tomato or zucchini or lettuce leaves – the taste! Oh, the taste! No store-bought vegetable can match that.

Alas, gardening is no longer an adequate solution to feed the many and not just because of lack of space. Most urbanites are now removed one or more generations from the gardening protocol. They have lost the knowledge of how to grow a garden and preserve its produce, nor do they have the room to store a winter’s supply. To compound the problem, they often have no one with experience to turn to. Even though community gardens and farmers’ markets provide some locally-sourced food security, they’re insufficient to feed an entire city.

So, if the idea of rationing rankles and gardening is a band-aid solution at best, how can we ensure food security during this pandemic?

Next: Security in the Time of COVID, Part 3: Relief

P.S. Tell me: what are your gardening plans this spring?

#COVID19 #FoodInsecurity #Gardening #VictoryGardens #HundredMileDiet #FoodSelfsufficiency #CommunityGardens #FarmersMarket #LocallySourcedFood #MargaretGHanna