The Homestead Weekly

The Homestead Weekly, 28 March 2020

Like most of the rest of the world, we’re sheltering in place at the moment and learning to live with the new restrictions put in place from the COVID-19 pandemic. Each Sunday, I create a weekly to-do list in my notebook, complete with a weekly menu and a mini day-by-day calendar of what we have coming up. It was pretty weird (not to mention a tad depressing) to see that, once my oldest daughter’s preschool was cancelled this week, the calendar held…nothing.

So, in order to keep from going crazy, we’ve been scheduling out events and plans and projects that we can do each day here at home, and it’s really helped morale around here to have something concrete to look forward to as well as a definite purpose for each day.

In the Kitchen

For quite awhile now, I’ve only been doing one main shopping trip a month, with smaller trips every week or week and a half after to pick up fresh produce and perishables like milk. This month, as would be expected, we’ve gone to the store even less, which means that we’re having to start getting a bit creative with our use of pantry ingredients and making different things than usual for our meals, especially our breakfasts and lunches (when we normally rotate between the same dozen things or so).

We’re big bread eaters over here, and since our local stores have put limits on how many loaves of bread you can pick up per shopping trip (and since we haven’t really been shopping hardly at all), we’ve had to start making our own bread until I do my big shopping trip this coming week. (Well, I’m hoping I’ll be able to do a big shopping trip–with how much stores have been hit-or-miss with item availability lately, I don’t know if I’ll be able to get away with just going the once.) Although my bread pretty much always TASTES good, I’ve been working lately on trying to make it LOOK really good, too. One thing I know about myself as a baker/cook is that I often cut corners in order to save time and effort. For example, I don’t worry about chopping up vegetables into exactly equal-sized pieces (or necessarily chopping them super small), and I also don’t worry about making my cookies/muffins/cupcakes/etc. uniform in size, either.

However, there is something to be said for a smooth-topped, perfectly rounded loaf of homemade sandwich bread, and I think I’m willing to take a few extra minutes per batch to devote to perfecting that technique. Above is my first attempt, and while it’s smoother than most I’ve made in the past, there were still some definite flaws in the back.

I’ve also been introduced to the wonderful world of baked oatmeal, which I somehow had never tried up to this point. Seriously, it might be the greatest breakfast discovery of this decade for me. Everyone loves it, it’s super filling, and there are endless combinations to keep it from getting boring. For the record, we’ve so far tried this maple and blueberry version, this peanut butter and banana version, and this classic Amish version.

In other news, we just had it confirmed that my husband has celiac, so there’s going to be a bit of a learning curve in the next several months as we accommodate to that. We’re not completely new to gluten-free eating (I have a sister with celiac and Matt has multiple family members with it, and I ate gluten-free for six months awhile back to get my autoimmune disease under control), but we haven’t really had to deal with how to manage a gluten-free diet with the rest of the family. My plan now is to make most of our meals gluten-free, and the ones that aren’t, I’ll just make something separate for my husband.

In the Coop

Our 4 older ladies (aka, the four hens we bought as chicks last year) are all regularly laying again after most of them took a hiatus for the winter. (For awhile, we didn’t know if one of them was laying at all, but now we’ve finally gotten four obviously different colors/types of eggs, so now we’re sure that the one hen isn’t broken.) Most days, we average 2-3 eggs a day from them, which is *almost* enough to keep our family’s needs totally met. We had yet to have 4 lay on the same day, but this week, it finally happened!

The six baby chicks we got early this month are starting to hit the awkward “teenage” stage of chickdom–scrawny and leggy, with their fuzz being replaced by feathers that stick out everywhere like they’re trying out new hairstyles. They are skittish and excitable, flapping and ramming themselves against their makeshift coop in the garage every time I throw something in the recycling bin or come in to check their food and water. We’ve been having our daughter Raven–our oldest–take over more of the chicken duties, and she has diligently stepped up on her little camp chair each day to peek over the coop in the garage and make sure the chicks are doing okay, as well as throwing leftover scraps to the bigger hens, helping to gather eggs, and making sure to let us know if one of the old girls escapes the confines of the portable poultry fence.

In the Yard

With the current pandemic, Matt has been putting in overtime at his job to help fill the massive influx of orders lately for small animal food. Because of that, his time at home has been very limited, which meant he was unable to finish putting up the other two cattle panels we’re using as pea/bean trellises on Saturday as we had originally planned.

This week was a cold, windy one with bursts of snow flurries, and we had planned to put out our seedlings this weekend, but we worried the cold temps and frigid gales blustering down from the nearby canyon would kill them all, especially as some of them have developed a woebegone appearance during the hardening off process this week. It was during this stage of the game that we lost nearly all of the plants we tried to grow from seeds two years ago, so we’re trying to learn from past mistakes. The plan is to get the seeds out tomorrow evening, as soon as Matt gets home from work, as the temps should be a bit more mild by then.

We currently have daffodils and crocuses just starting to bloom, and our tulips are fanning out and providing some welcome greenery amidst all the thawing mud and dead grass, though we’re still a couple weeks out on blooms I think. Our irises are starting to really pop up now too, and I saw the first red stalks of peony bushes poking through just a couple days ago for the first time.

In the Home

The strangeness of the current circumstances mean that I vacillate between being very involved and present (building forts with the children, drinking in the cuddles that come with read-aloud time and bedtime routines) and extremely distracted. I thought I’d be reading a ton during this time of sheltering in place–even more than the usual 1 or 2 books I average a week–but so far, I’ve been going from book to book, unable to stay focused on any one thing for long. I’m sure as more time passes and I get more used to this new normal (for however long it lasts), it will get better. For now, I read snippets as I can throughout the day—my usual pre-bedtime chapter (or page) or two, my dozen-page sessions stolen in the bathroom every chance I can. (Is that strange to read in the bathroom? I’ve never thought so because my dad has always been a big bathroom reader, but I don’t know if most other people find it a weird habit. Kinda makes me think of that Seinfeld episode…)

Several weeks back, I had an epiphany about my weakness of being a bit untidy and way too comfortable with the clutter on the flat surfaces and the toys constantly underfoot, and I realized that the only way things were going to change was if I really committed myself to new habits and to a big change in how I viewed my identity. I’ve never identified myself as a tidy or neat person, so it was easy to let my slovenly ways slide. However, I decided that enough is enough, and I’m working on being better. While overall things have been worlds better than before (I’m largely staying on top of the dishes each day and the kids and Matt are helping out way more, which helps the front room and main living spaces be a lot more, well, livable), I’m struggling to adhere to the habits I started to try to implement several weeks back, when I was feeling much more motivated in general. I’m having a hard time folding all the laundry every time I do my weekly (now bi-weekly) laundry day, which means that I tend to fold half of it and then leave the rest on our bed to be picked over as the week progresses. I’m also struggling to maintain the rough cleaning schedule I’d started of vacuuming on Tuesdays, dusting on Wednesdays, bathrooms on Thursdays, and so on.

It’s a work in progress, that’s for sure.

As for what the kids and I have been up to, well, it’s basically the same thing we’ve been up to since the baby was born in December when we kind of unofficially put ourselves into quarantine (and joked about it) and now everyone’s really in it. The kids mostly entertain themselves with toys in the basement, stacks of books (thank goodness for the library’s curbside pick-up program), running around in the fenced-in backyard (so grateful we have one!), and lots of art projects (I’m using that term loosely). Sometimes they drive me (and each other) crazy, but most of the time, we hum along nicely together–me puttering around the house or working on projects or rocking and feeding the baby, and the older two putting in their work hours playing.

I do wish we could get out more (I know everyone does), but we’re consciously trying to embrace the closeness and the growth of this season, too.

Sometimes another whole week of all this seems overwhelming, so we’re just taking things one day at a time, knocking out our routine.

And in some ways, I’ve never felt so inspired.

How’s quarantine going in your part of the world?

2 Comments on “The Homestead Weekly, 28 March 2020

  1. I have ALWAYS been a somewhat un-tidy person, mostly due to clutter. I love the idea of being organized and tidy, but I collect a lot of things, and my house has no storage, so it spirals. Sigh. I am also trying to think of ways I can force myself into better habits with the tidiness thing. If you have any ideas, I AM ALL EARS! lol.
    How did you guys learn how to care for chickens? Just research, or did you know someone who had them?

    1. I just finished reading The Home Edit, which had a lot of inspiring organizational ideas, even if you’re low on space. My biggest thing with organizing has just been to get rid of stuff though, honestly—I’ve never been a fabulous housekeeper, so the less stuff to take care of and clean, the better.

      Chickens are actually incredibly low-maintenance, as far as keeping animals goes. We’ve just kind of learned as we’ve went along, and Matt watches a LOT (like, a LOT) of homesteading videos via YouTube 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *