Homesteading: A Comfort in a Pandemic Panic

As pandemic lockdowns are extended and the fate of our futures seems impossible to determine, our collective mental health is being strained more than ever before. For some, the chaos has brought stillness, time for contemplation and change. For others, it has brought danger, crippling fear, and feelings of powerlessness. Yet others still, it has left relatively little change in their lives. 

The Situation

We are fortunate to be of the latter group. Many worries that others’ have right now are not things we have to be concerned about. Before I continue please note this article is written only from my perspective and is not meant as anything other than a snapshot of our lifestyle. What is right for us is not always right for other people. My heart goes out to those suffering and struggling through this unprecedented pandemic time.

Our lifestyle has been a blessing and great comfort in this chaos. The only things that have changed for us have been inconvenient at most. I had to find another source to buy organic grains to mix feed for the chickens and turkeys. Our one safe restaurant shut down after the shelter-in-place order. Things like that.

She is still working, considered essential as a hospital lab worker. We have enough food on hand. We switched to buying enough for two weeks at a time this past January when the buying club we get the bulk of our groceries from moved to a further location. The Farm Connection contracts with local farms for their products so their supply chain was uninterrupted. As it is a small members-only buying club that functions on limited days with the majority of stock as pre-orders, the only people who could panic buy were other members.

field of grain

The Changes on Account of the Pandemic

We buy organic grains in bulk for me to mix animal feed and for us to eat off of. Having run a small scale restaurant before we launched our homesteading journey, I am accustomed to ordering whenever a stock falls below 50% to allow for unpredictable events and shipping delays. I just got in half an order days before the city locked down. However, the second half was canceled by the store’s corporate headquarters. 

This left me scrambling to find large amounts of organic grain that didn’t break the bank to ship and actually had stock. Enter Azure, who conveniently had a drop within 20 minutes of our house. They would be shipping in enough time for me to not run out. 

I also grow some of our food and had planned to have a massive grow out this year. I need to do seed variety comparisons and refresh my seed stock in the seed bank I maintain. My seed bank has a few hundred varieties of heirloom fruits, vegetables, cooking, and medicinal herbs and flowers. It is accessible to my apprentices. This proved to be a comfort when I learned people were panic buying so many seeds most companies had to shut down orders for a week or more just to catch up. I was able to provide friends with seeds for them to start their gardens while not affecting myself.

young plants in a seed growing tray

The Things That Stay the Same

Even more of a comfort for my friends and myself, I already garden so I don’t have to tackle the beginner’s learning curve during the pandemic. That means I have the knowledge and experience to generally tell what’s wrong in enough time to ensure I still get a crop. I know what seasons to plant what, what USDA growing zone (zone 9) and what Koppen Climate classification (semi-humid subtropical) we are. I know my soil, my available rainfall, the general temperature range, and how windy it may get. 

We raise animals. Although it’s not the season, we have the option of thinning the flock and herd if we need it. I also process our own animals. There is no need to transport scared animals to a processing facility and I can use every part of the animal. In the meantime, they can eat our weeds, forage, and snack on vegetable scraps while giving us eggs and providing pest or pruning services.

We don’t even need to change our general habits. We already practice biosecurity measures to ensure our animals and our own health. Her working in a hospital and previously the zoo means we don’t wear shoes into the house. We even have separate onsite and offsite shoes, and we frequently and thoroughly wash our hands. We are also both accustomed to preventing cross-contamination, considering my food handling and our animal handling previous jobs. The household does not come into contact regularly with immunocompromised friends and family. We also have the ability to video chat with them and make phone calls to stay in touch.

rows of bok choy

The Day to Day During the Pandemic

I cook, bake, ferment, dehydrate, forage, butcher, and otherwise prepare and store food. I have a large library of books to read. She has a large collection of movies, so we do not lack entertainment or education either. 

Homesteading has been a great comfort to us in this pandemic. It has shown us where we need to improve, what needs to be changed and that what we value is still accessible even when the world is thrown into chaos. May this time be as eye-opening to you. 

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