Daily updates, press conferences, mandates and now unbelievably, protests, fill print ,digital, audiovisual and social media platforms relentlessly during this pandemic. During these unprecedented times, daily briefings on new antiviral medications , vaccine development, convalescent plasma clinical trials diagnostic tests, immunomodulatory therapy and epidemiology are visible in real-time for a global audience to watch as scientists learn, discover , collaborate and hopefully, end the spread of SARS-CoV-2 and the reign of COVID19.
The public health messaging remains clear- Stay At Home, Mask Up, Flatten the Curve and We Are All In This Together. The hard work of unsung heroes- public health professionals and epidemiologists- is visible to all who value individual and community health. And for now, public health messaging continues to aim for a flattened curve and downward slope in COVID19 cases .
In the midst of this new state of uncertainty, anxiety and at times, conflicting information, finding a piece of peace is self care- something we all need.
Juxtaposed with this uncertainty is the reliable routine of the upcoming Maryland growing season. Spring is a time of excitement, planning, anticipation and hope for gardeners and farmers. Grow lights, seedling heat mats, potting mix and seeds cover tables -inside and outside. The weather remains unpredictable but midday when the sun shines, amending the soil, preparing garden beds, removing weeds, and carefully nurturing seedlings brings a sense of peace and purpose in these trying times.
This is our second year on the farm in Highland, Maryland, and while the deer enjoyed some of our harvest last year, this year the deer fence is up and the warm weather so far has brought some welcome and flavorful return guests- lemon oregano, chamomile, mint, broccoli raab, lavender, arugula and red mustard greens.
There is nothing like walking around a farm or garden on a sunny day and finding fresh leaves from a perennial or annual that self seeded from the previous year. And finding the first ladybug is a welcome sign and part of our pest control team.
And this year, unlike last year, earthworms are everywhere working to increase water penetration, decompose plant matter, increase water drainage and root penetration for our seedlings. The castings from the soil earthworms and the compost worms in our vermiculture bin, will help nurture our soil into the black gold that plants, bacteria, and mycorrhizae love. Along with the aged compost from three neighboring horses, our soil regeneration plan remains on track to grow nutrient dense crops for kitchens and tables in the suburban DC area.
In the midst of unsettling times, nature and Mother Earth will always offer a piece of peace and calm.
It's not for the faint of heart.
Homeschooling.After one year of high school homeschooling, my son returned to his local high school with such anticipation, motivation and focus that the experience was a win for both of us.
Between online courses, and homeschool courses at museums in the DC area, he met new students and traveled independently throughout the DC area as part of his coursework. The experience increased his confidence, independence, and introduced him to business owners, artists, and educators from all background throughout the Washington DC area.
Part of the homeschool experience coincided with my new interest in farming- the scale, variety, infrastructure and as always, the relationship to health and wellness. Farming offers an unparalleled experiential opportunity for students of all ages to learn and practice math, science, botany, agronomy, nutrition, engineering, solar energy and business to start.
Hands on experiences brought both of us an growing knowledge base on hoop houses, greenhouses, drip irrigation, ethnic crops, aquaculture, and fertigation while we volunteered at a research farm that distributes farm grown produce to local hunger organizations. And with our CSA, we traveled to food deserts in DC to offer locally grown food in partnership with local organizations and businesses.
The school day usually started with a handful of strawberries growing in the greenhouse or strawberry patch. Local chefs visited the farm and piqued his interest in cooking and the culinary arts.Before I knew it, our kitchen was filled with cakes and cookies and his love for kale salad ,in big bowls, began. Walking around the farm, lifting tables for farmers markets, pushing wheelbarrows, and harvesting a variety of berries and fruit for our CSA , in all seasons, and in the great outdoors , was at least 4 hours of functional and physical fitness.
Coincidentally, our local high school offered a culinary arts program and operated a small cafe for students and staff. When he presented the information brochure to me along with the registration papers, I knew our homeschool experience was ending as his self advocacy and educational focus blossomed. I just had to sign my name on the dotted line.
Wins All Around.
Fast forward to today, after a part time job in a restaurant, his career goals changed from working in the back of the house to the business side helping local restaurants increase their reach and revenue. The desire to become a chef came to a screeching halt but his interest in farming continues. Now, he's a young adult , continuing to learn on and off the farm. Hot composting, cold composting, solarization, Eisenia fetida, vermiculture, and building a trellis for snap peas inoculated with Rhizobium leguminosora- the lessons never stop.
So, if you are home because of COVID19, attempting to work and homeschool one or more students. Relax. Take a walk. Grow something. Stay safe, Stay home. Learning is not limited to a computer screen , or whiteboard.