Let’s Talk About Something Else for a Minute

A fellow blogger made the statement this week that “there’s so much to talk about right now that it’s almost paralyzing”. She was mainly referring to the pandemic, but truer words were probably never uttered. I didn’t make a post last week, not because I was too busy, but because I have no clue what to write about right now.  I know COVID-19 is a big part of everyone’s life these days. It’s a daily conversation in our family and honestly, I don’t know what else to say about it. I’m at the point where I just want to put on my mask and gloves and get on with the business of living. And above all, I want – no, I need – to talk about something else, if for no other reason than my own mental wellbeing.

But what do I want to say? I have no clue on that either! Do I tell you all about the garden and how we harvested enough spinach to make a salad? Do I tell you about work and how I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of grants to write this month? Or do I tell you about some of the dumb decisions I’ve made lately regarding work and how frustrated I am because of it? Do I tell you about the book I’m reading and how it’s reaffirming our choice to eat a mostly plant-based diet? Or do I tell you how our neighbor is making us reconsider living in a RV again? There are just too many topics!

So, I’ll start in the garden. We did indeed harvest enough baby spinach on Sunday to make a salad and it was delicious. The potatoes that we planted in grocery bags – well, they are growing like gangbusters. Our first crop of radishes should be ready the middle of next week. And our tomatoes are now in the ground.

But the thing we’re most proud of is what we’re calling the “renegade garden”. Angie and I cleaned out a corner of my mom’s backyard near the creek a few weeks ago. The corner is not technically ours but Judi, who lives next door, has probably not set foot in this corner in years. When we removed all the overgrowth, our original plan was to make a space for our hammocks. As we started observing the sunlight, we realized this was the perfect space to grow something, so we planted a little row of sunberries (aka wonderberries) and randomly placed all of our leftover tomatoes. Oh, and a sprinkle of watermelon and cantaloupe seeds. We don’t plan to tend this garden, except to water it if it gets too dry. It’s an experiment in growing food in unusual spaces and we’re excited to see how it goes.

Our Renegade Garden

Work has been abundant this month, which is great considering the freelance editor job I was hired for has been put on hold and I was beginning to get concerned about our budget. A lot of foundations and government entities are offering emergency funding to non-profits right now so I’ve had a lot of requests for grant writing. In fact, I completed 6 grant applications this month and have 3 more possibilities for May. So far, 4 of those 6 applications have been funded – a nice little fact that plays well for me when trying to find new work. So, I’m pretty happy on that front.

What I’m not happy about is a side-hustle that I agreed to do back in February. I won’t disclose the company but the gig is merchandising mostly seasonal products in a large grocery chain. When I accepted the job, it sounded like fun – 1 day a week calling on stores in/around middle Tennessee – with most of the hours being drive time hours, for which the company paid a gas allowance and a car allowance (along with an hourly wage, of course). The numbers added up on paper to one very important thing –  RENT. Yes, working this easy little gig would pay the rent – and all the gas our little car would ever need in a month. But, not everything that works out on paper works out in real life. The job is easy. It does pay everything it said it would. But OMG! the communication is terrible, the technology fails all the time, and the work is so boring, I don’t even know what else to say. Except that I sincerely hope that this editor gig comes through so I can ditch this one soon.

Even with all the work this month, I’ve had a lot of time to relax, read, and think. Right now, I’m reading How Not to Die by Michael Greger, MD. As a math nerd, I love that it’s chock full of statistics but I also love how practical it is. If you are thinking about going plant-based, I highly recommend this book. It will tell you everything you ever wanted to know (and some things you didn’t) about the food we eat. Like, did you know that 20 servings of fruit has the equivalent sugar content of 8 cans of soda, yet when a group of researchers fed 20 servings of fruit to test subjects daily for 3 months, there was no increase in weight, blood sugar or triglycerides. There was, however, a reduction in bad cholesterol (LDL) by 38 points. Go fruit!! As people who eat fruit like it’s candy, Angie and I both found this study particularly fascinating and a great way to refute all those folks who keep telling us that “too much fruit is bad for you”.

A typical breakfast for us – homemade yogurt with granola and flax, fruit, toast, nuts, and green tea.

What is bad for you though? Noisy neighbors, that’s what! And I can’t even blame this one on the stay-at-home order. Our downstairs neighbor is a single man in his sixties. He’s nice enough when you’re just exchanging greetings but lately he’s been extra invasive (like trying to invite himself up to our apartment invasive). We have nothing in common. He drinks (excessively). We don’t. He’s a hoarder. We aren’t. He eats most every meal at Logan’s Roadhouse or Cracker Barrel. We cook at home. He commonly refers to certain groups as “those people” and uses the N-word (a lot!). We’re a little too gay to be discriminating against anyone. So, we try to avoid him as best we can, but lately he’s made that super hard. He parks a lawn chair in front of our balcony and blasts music from a boombox all afternoon (at least on days when it rains, we have a reprieve). If I can hear the lyrics inside the apartment, the music is way too loud, and yesterday I thought Freddie Mercury was in our living room. Our apartment staff has yet to do anything about this and every day, we find ourselves wanting to move. Maybe this is a sign?? It is lease renewal time, after all.

So that’s the sum of our lives over the past two weeks. Admittedly, I’ve had a bit of the quarantine blues but even just writing this post has helped a lot with that. I’m looking forward to a great garden season this year, looking forward to the re-opening of our parks and Farmer’s Market, and hoping that everyone out there has something they are looking forward too as well.

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A few weeks ago, I asked for submissions from our community on your journey to minimalism or what minimalism means to you. This week, I got one from Ilona at ILONAZBLOG called What is Minimalism or How to Free Your Space? Ilona is from the Ukraine and recently started her minimalist blog. I encourage you to check out her post and show her some community support by liking or subscribing to her blog.

Do you have an inspiring story about minimalism to share with others? Just send me the link at minimalistsnextdoor@gmail.com and I’ll share it in my next post.

The Lowdown on Our Lockdown

I’m not going to lie, this situation is starting to get me down. We like to think of ourselves as homebodies but the truth is, for as much as we love whipping up recipes in the kitchen and working in the garden, we also enjoy getting out and going places. I miss the park. I miss eating lunch at our favorite picnic table and taking a hike. I miss camping and exploring new places. And I’m pretty bummed that every single plan we had for spring has been cancelled – the Baker Creek Seed Festival, the Mother Earth News Fair, and opening day of the Hot Rods baseball season.

I think we are now on day fourteen bazillion and thirty-seven of our safer at home order (which sometime last week became a stay at home order). That home – the one we’re being asked to stay in – has probably never been so clean and clutter-free. We even borrowed a ladder from my mom to deep clean the light fixtures!

Our State Parks are now closed and our grocery stores have started limiting the number of people who can go in at one time. I’ve been given the option to continue to work my merchandising gig (with provided safety equipment and extra pay) or stay home without penalty. Right now, because I’m only in stores a few hours a week, I’ve opted to continue working. I admit though – it’s a little disconcerting to have someone reach over the top of your shoulder to get something off the shelf.

As we’ve settled into the knowledge that we can’t really go anywhere or do the things we had planned for spring, we’ve been trying to find fun in our new routines. We’ve started having more patio picnics and getting our walks in by circling our apartment complex and the row of empty restaurants across the street. We planted our green beans and are now counting down the days until our first crop of radishes are ready for harvest. That’s pretty exciting!

We’ve also been catching up on our outdoor to-do list. I fixed the Weed-Eater so I don’t have to hand weed the fence row (or heaven forbid, watch the neighbor douse it with Round-Up!) We crafted a planter for our herb seeds that should be here today from MIGardener.

And we finally got around to cracking all of the black walnuts we foraged for last fall.

Amid all the wondering and worrying and trying to make the best of a bad situation, a funny thing happened. I picked up the lid from a metal can that Angie had been using in the garden and tossed it to her to put away in the shed. It sailed across the yard just like a Frisbee and she caught it in her free hand. I smiled. She laughed. And she tossed it back to me.

For half an hour, we stood in the yard tossing what had once been the lid of a Christmas popcorn tin back and forth, laughing each time it clanked to the ground and cheering when we made a hard catch. It was fun. It was freeing. And for a minute, I felt a little less frustrated by everything going on in the world around me.

How are you holding up at home? What are some of the things you find yourself missing most? What are you doing to stay sane?