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It’s been five months since the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. There are many changes that have taken place. Some which will remain going forward and some that I’m glad won’t be permanent. The pandemic certainly changed a lot of things for almost everybody. How people view those changes depends on how they look at life. They can focus on the bad parts of it, the good, and the lessons learned and how those lessons can be used as a benefit.
The reason I preface with that is that yes, there have been a lot of negative and bad things about COVID-19, some of which are still happening. But I think we can use this time and really do an honest reflection of our lives and how we’re doing things. There are some things to look at and things that we can be grateful for and used as a pivot point moving forward.
Listen in below to the full podcast, Episode #267 7 Things We’ll Never Go Back to Since COVID19, of the Pioneering Today Podcast, where we don’t just inspire you, but give you the clear steps to create the homegrown garden, pantry, kitchen, and life you want for your family and homestead.
One of the things for us that has been really interesting since March is how we grow our food. We’ve always raised a large vegetable garden for the past 12 years with each year having the goal to raise and preserve a year’s worth of each crop from our garden. But with the pandemic, we chose to increase the garden even more.
I really thought we had a handle on our food storage, what we were growing, and raising ourselves and all of that. But, when all of this happened, my eyes were opened to the areas where I’d gotten lax or was relying on store-bought items. I just wasn’t keeping my back stock up like I should have been. Things like dried beans and popcorn which I ran out of. There were other things here and there that I had run out of or just didn’t have as much on hand as I really needed. I’m grateful for that because it really showed me that I needed to keep up on our food storage and not let things get too down. For me, I decided that I need to make sure I have a year’s worth, or at least six months, of certain things on hand at all times. That is my new goal. So I’m grateful because it made me take a realistic look at what we had and reminded me not to become complacent and keep those stores stocked.
It also made me up our gardening game. I already knew how much I needed to plant of our staple crops in order to harvest it fresh and then have enough to preserve to take us through for a year’s worth of food. Those crops for us are:
I planted a lot more cool weather crops this year that I can leave out in the garden that I can harvest from that I don’t have to preserve.
I feel like for the foods that you can easily preserve, whether by canning, dehydrating, freezing, fermenting, or using root cellar techniques I’ve done a pretty good job. But I realized that for the spring and fall crops that I could actually plant a lot more if I just stayed on the ball. It’s made me want to have more fresh vegetables available for more months of the year out of our garden so that I don’t have to go to the store to purchase things like fresh broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. Things that if I just planted more of them and did a fall planting of them that I can harvest from my garden all the way through until we either consume them or it gets super-duper covered by snow and just goes too late, but I can well extend that.
That’s been a good change and was something that I knew we could do. I just hadn’t always been doing it.
One thing I thought I was doing a pretty good job was not going to the grocery store or to town very often. Where I live there is a smaller grocery store, about 12 miles from our house which takes about 15 minutes to drive there. To hit big stores with lots of ingredients or to get things in bulk is a 45-minute drive. I had been going about two to three times a month. I tried to make sure that a trip was never wasted. Meaning if there was an appointment I would go to the store since I was already in town. I wouldn’t waste the gas.
What’s been interesting since COVID is that I have been trying to go the least amount of times as possible. I have found that when I stay home and in our rural environment it feels like things are more normal, but when I have to go into the bigger cities and towns it really does affect my psyche. Even if I didn’t realize it, I’ve noticed that even the following day it affects me mentally to a degree. I’m not saying that it would put me in a full-on depression or that I’m super sensitive but it does have an effect when everybody you see is wearing a mask and everybody is super distanced. We won’t be debating whether it needs to be done, but I’m sharing how it affects me.
I find that the least amount of times I can go is better for me. It’s been great because I’m spending less time on the road, less gas money, less impulse type buying of even little things at the grocery store. It’s made me really go through the food that we have, keep track of things, do better rotation using what we have, and of course, using things out of the garden more now that we have fresh produce coming on. I really like that so minimizing my trips is something I plan to keep in place even after all this is done and over with.
Something else that I wouldn’t have thought that I would change, but has been a change that I actually really like, and that is how often I was committed to other activities. In the next town to me, which is about 12 miles from us, is a historical theater. It’s over 100-year-old building that has been restored. Not only is it used to play movies but the stage and the room in front of the stage where there’s lots of room before the first row of seating is used as a local fitness center. Prior to COVID, I taught a class one night a week but I also attended a lot of the other classes.
So I was driving and going to a fitness class three to four days a week with doing other workouts at home on the off days. If you’ve never done a group live workout before you do push harder naturally. When I was commuting back and forth to the pharmacy when I was a pharmacy tech I couldn’t do any live in-person group workouts unless they were on the weekend. And I rarely did them then because weekends were when I had to do everything else.
It’s only been about two years that I’ve gotten to do live workouts and I’ve really enjoyed them and the group of women there, the camaraderie, and support. I really thought that as soon as this is over I would go straight back to that schedule and doing those group workouts for four to five days a week.
But I’ve noticed that I actually have enjoyed not driving in and going to the workouts all the time. Right now in the phase that we’re at the fitness center can have the instructor and two other people. Technically we’re allowed to have five minus the instructor but we’re limiting it to the instructor and two others. The workouts are being streamed so people can join in from home.
The reason I’m sharing that with you is that I got to go in on the Friday morning workout. When we finished I was totally surprised and overcome with emotion, like good, happy tears. I actually choked up and got teary-eyed.
I realized that I really had missed this aspect of getting to connect with these ladies who I’ve gotten to know so well over the past two years. But I also realized that going five days a week really stressed me out because most of the classes were in the evening for people who were working could still come when they got off work. Having those workouts right at dinner time, even when I prepped dinner ahead of time, really made evenings stressful.
It wasn’t until going wasn’t an option that I didn’t realize that it was causing some stress. So I’ve realized that just going in one to two live workouts a week max is a happy place for me. The rest will be done at home. That really surprised me. I was not anticipating that. That’s definitely a change not doing as many of those group activities. Not being away from the house has actually been really good. It’s also given me the flexibility to try out some different workouts and try different types of things with my workouts. That’s been kind of fun.
The other thing is that we weren’t able to have was church services. We just started having church services again a couple of weeks ago with new guidelines. Not having church, despite doing my own devotion and prayer time, it was the same thing.
That first Sunday back I can’t tell you how much I cherished it and how grateful I am to get to be in a church service with my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, along with my family. I don’t think I will ever take for granted the ability to meet together and those relations that I have and how much I missed them. Attending church is the number one priority.
I realized that I thought I had really strong faith on my own, but when we weren’t meeting in church that as the months went on I realized I was not as strong in my faith as I thought I was. I wasn’t spending as much time in prayer. Not just prayer and Bible reading – I did keep up on this – but the worship aspect.
By this I mean listening to worship songs, singing to the Lord, and spending time with him in that aspect. But when you do that it’s so uplifting to the soul. But I realized I had not been doing that at home hardly at all. Prior to COVID I would have Christian radio on if I wasn’t listening to a podcast while driving. Which meant I would sing along with the radio and have time where I was worshiping God that way. But because I haven’t been driving nearly as much – which is a good thing! – I wasn’t listening to those songs. So that’s something that I’m trying to be very conscientious of making sure I’m listening and entering into praise and worship and doing that more on my own.
We’ve all experienced the change in public school with the closures that happened in the spring and now with the changes to be made for the fall. Some schools aren’t opening in the fall. As of right now, I don’t know yet what our school is going to do. We’re still waiting for those answers. My children go to public school. I went to public school. In fact, my kids are in the exact same school district that I went to. My children have had teachers that I had.
However, with COVID all the public schools were shut down in March and did not reopen. I had not done homeschooling prior to that. It was basically a bridge where they were learning at home but was still supported by the school district. That was really interesting because I got to see more upfront where my kid’s strengths and weaknesses lie and where they’re strong in certain subjects and where they struggle, along with their learning style.
During the beginning of the pandemic, I was working between 60 to 70 hours a week, even though it was from home. Trying to home school on top of that was actually stressful. There were a lot of good things that happened but it was a stressful time I have to say. I have definitely lessened the time I was working by bringing on some additional help along with putting in some systems because staying at that level is not sustainable.
The reason I’m sharing that is that I think we are probably going to be homeschooling this year. If COVID hadn’t happened I don’t think I would have ever made that call. I don’t think that we would have done home school.
My kids both really like public school for the most part. I’m 90% sure that we will be homeschooling regardless of what the public school system decides by this fall. It will be interesting because I have never homeschooled before. Clearly I have no experience with it. So that’s a big change that I would have never expected to come about but I’m excited about it. I’m sure it will come with its own set of challenges and difficulties just like anything in life that’s new.
We’ve spent way more time together as a family. My daughter was in sports, which I think is great and she definitely misses the camaraderie of her team and the physical aspect of being busy and with other people. However, we won’t be going back to trying to do two or three sports where they overlap anymore. We’ll just do one at a time and none of the overlapping because the going back and forth with her from one to another and then the next day doing it all over again which meant me running back and forth, was a lot more stress than I realized. So we’re pulling back though, if it’s an option and not canceled because of the pandemic, she will be allowed to do sports…just not as many.
It’s been interesting in that we have actually spent more time together as a family. Past summers we have always gone on a lot of camping trips. So we would be out on excursions or out with the boat doing different things like that. But a lot of the campgrounds are not open that we would normally go to. We do have a few trips planned. We did our annual crabbing trip where we go crabbing in our little ski boat and get a year’s worth of crab over a three to four days in a little sheltered bay. Fortunately, we were able to get out limit and now have a year’s worth of crab in our freezer.
But I’ve noticed that we’re spending a lot more time at home so we’re a lot more relaxed because we’re not trying to rush and get all of the homestead chores done so that we can be gone camping. It’s been really nice. In fact, this past Sunday we spent together in an above ground pool that we set up. We bought it last year and took it down and stored it really well. Put it back up this year. It’s a four foot above ground pool…the kind you lock together.
We spent the afternoon together as a family of four in the pool playing and just enjoying it. We finally got some sunny weather here and I realized that in years prior to this we would maybe do this for just a short amount of time on a hot summer afternoon or evening in between stopping the workday, getting dinner done, and all of the chores. In the past, it was that we might have had 20 minutes to play in the pool and then my husband and I had to get out and do go all of our work.
Spending the day in the pool was nothing special but it was one of the most wonderful special days ever. So I hope that even after things open back up and we have those other options that we can still have those wonderful moments, that we can be still and just at home and not going as much. Even though some of it was good things, like camping together, just that stillness and slowing down has been really good because I didn’t realize how much we were moving and doing before all of this happened.
I think many of us have felt that need to try those things we’ve been dreaming and wanting to do. For a lot of us, this came in the form of wanting to do a garden, but never quite got to it. Or want to learn how to can food, or ferment food, dehydrate it, make bread from sourdough, or make your own cheese. Maybe it was learning how to sew. I feel like this time pushed a lot of us to do those things that we had been putting off.
I’m doing cheesemaking. I’ve done soft cheeses, yogurts, and those types of things for years but I’m learning to do aged cheese making. But this is pushing me to do more. In a good way. It’s funny right? I’m talking about how doing less has been so amazing, but because I’m doing less it’s allowing me to do some of those things I’ve always wanted to do and have never done or never taken the plunge to take it to the next level like I’ve wanted to.
I know many of you were in that boat because I’ve had many of you email me and tell me so. So many of you have said that you started your first garden this year and you’re beginning to harvest your first vegetables. And oh my goodness, so many of you have been learning how to can. I have so many of you who are in my Pioneering Today Academy, which is my membership group, or in my individual canning course, who have never canned before are doing it.
You’ve done your first run of using a pressure canner or even a water bath canner. The first time you’ve ever made jam. It’s been so uplifting to the soul to see how proud of yourself you are and you should be. And I get to celebrate that with you.
I hope that all of you are picking an area of your life and doing something that you’ve just been putting off and are doing it because I think if we can take that time to reflect and then keep the things that are good, go back to the things that we really need to feed our soul, then we can say that there’s been good stuff that has come out of this time period.
Melissa K. Norris inspires people's faith and pioneer roots with her books, podcast, and blog. Melissa lives with her husband and two children in their own little house in the big woods in the foothills of the North Cascade Mountains. When she's not wrangling chickens and cattle, you can find her stuffing Mason jars with homegrown food and playing with flour and sugar in the kitchen.