COVID-19 & Homestead Projects
Well, it's been nearly a year since COVID-19 safety protocols changed nearly everything. Like many families, we've had to adjust a great number of plans, projects, and routines. Although we've remained healthy, physically, through this ordeal, the mental toll has been overwhelming at times. Hannah and the kids had to quickly adapt to virtual teaching and learning for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. I was uprooted from my office at the college and remain working predominantly from home still today. We all shared a space through August 2020 when Hannah and kids headed back into the school building.
March 12, 2020 was a fateful day. Hannah and I attended the Lauren Daigle concert in Grand Rapids, MI that night not knowing it would be our last "date night" in a long time. The very next day, MI pretty much shut down and we had no idea it would be for a year +.
Hannah thought that time "away" from work would be the best time to tackle some projects on the homestead. Maple syrup season had just ended, so in late March 2020 I ripped apart the main floor bathroom. Over the next few weeks, we installed new tile flooring, new plumbing to accommodate double sinks for the kids, a new vanity, new toilet, new paint, and some shiplap on the walls. Although I initially protested the project, I was very pleased how it all turned out. Now, if only I kid convince my kids to keep it cleaned.
Next up was a plan to expand and fence off the garden. We had successfully planted and harvested vegetables for several years with some occasional disruption from the local wildlife and pests. I researched box gardens and decided upon a hügelkultur garden. The whole concept is build a mound, or in our case fill a box, with rotting wood, grass and compost materials, then top it with decent garden soil. It went really well. With the help of my brother in law who owns a sawmill, I had all the lumber I would need. We live in a heavily wooded part of the state of MI so I had my pick of rotting limbs. And because we've owned horses for several years, I had heaps of composted manure to use.
The garden in 2020 consisted of strawberries, raspberries, lettuce, kale, onions, potatoes, green beans, tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage, bell peppers, squash, radishes, carrots, and cucumbers. Some things went better than others and plans to improve our harvest for 2021 have already been hatched. As a bonus, the deer didn't quite figure out the fence until after the harvest!
In November 2020 it was the chickens' turn. We expanded their run (again) and made sure there was a place for always-expanding flock of birds.
Through much of the summer we remained close to home, cancelling trips too far to travel in COVID-19 conditions. In the back of my head I was formulating plans to build a Sugar Shack for the next maple syrup season. When it became apparent that my return to regular office hours would be delayed into late spring (then summer and now early fall 2021), I put my plans on paper and began to price and collect the needed supplies to build a structure on our homestead. I began setting a foundation in early December and chipped away at the project over the next 8+ weeks, making sure I could source what I needed and not put a huge hole in the bank account. In late January, with plenty of time and weather to spare, I finished the construction.
The media has been cautiously preparing the public for some kind of return to "normal" in the coming months. I am not certain what "normal" is anymore. We entered this period of time with trepidation and angst, unsure if we'd stay healthy, if we'd stay employed, and if we'd be better or worse off at the end of it.
There has been so much "lost" in the last year, but we have also gained so much too. The time spent at home and with family has been brief and oh so needed. I'm going to look back at this time with appreciation and with relief. Thankful to have done so much and relieved that, so far, we've stayed healthy and on solid footing.