March 2020

Bookshelves, maple syrup, chickens, garage facelift, yard cleanup, Covid-19, statewide quarantine… Just your average March in Wisconsin. Just kidding. It wasn’t. In some ways it was pretty “business as usual,” but in others, man, we were all thrown a curveball! Thankfully, I felt like I had signals it was coming. March 2020 will go down in history, that’s for certain.

I know I’ve been writing a little more than normal lately, so I don’t feel like I have as much that I should be writing about right now, but I still have things to fill you in on!

Since February, I’ve been building bookshelves in our living room. I’m not quite done… one more shelf to finish up. But it’s been a fun project, and one that is long over-due. We had plans to do this the year the coop burned down… the intention was that I would start building the shelves when allergy season got the best of us, but life decided that would not be the case. And so we are, nearly two years later, and I’m finally wrapping up this project.

As of writing this, I have all three shelves built, one is completely finished, paint and all. The second is almost done, but I need to build some cabinet doors and put on the base trim. The thirds is almost completely built. I just have a little bit of trim on, finish wiring in some light-fixtures, and paint everything. The ongoing joke in our house is how much credit Scott gets to take for each project that I do. Put a screw in? 50% of the project is his. It’s funny for us. But seriously, he did help quite a bit. Not only are all of my projects fully funded by him (all the time, not just this time), but he picked up almost all of the materials for the shelving for me. He also gave me ideas and helped me troubleshoot, so I’d say he gets quite a bit of credit for this one.

Outside, there’s been quite a bit of activity. We’ve been trying to do as much yard clean-up as possible. Scott trimmed trees, and I cleaned scion wood for our upcoming grafting project. The rootstock arrived last week, and we heeled it in until we are ready to graft, and I cleaned and tilled the area that we are going to plant all of the grafts this year.

The garden clean-up was a big task. The fenced in garden was never cleaned up a year and a half ago, and I just didn’t have the time to deal with it last year, because we had a new baby. I was also unable to properly clean up last year’s garden, again, partly because of having a baby, and partly because it rained SO MUCH. All of the farmers struggled to get through harvest season last year, and fields went unplowed because they were just too wet. Anyway… the kids have been helping me clean up, and I started to till that garden area as well. It’s finally starting to look presentable again!

All of the seeds have been purchased for the garden, with the exception of the red potatoes that I want to plant, but I *might* be able to use potatoes from last year for that purpose. I’ve got to inspect them first. I started a lot of seeds. We’ve got tomatoes, peppers, and onions going. I’ve got herbs and cabbage started, and I have a big tray of lavender that I am anxiously waiting to see if it will sprout. I cut up about half of the seed potatoes to get ready for planting. And I planted a little more garlic.

Going back to yard clean-up… I’ve been working on cooking down sap for maple syrup, and I have been using this opportunity to clean up scrap wood and wood piles from around the yard. I pulled all of the taps a few days ago, and we’re just trying to wrap up the rest of the cooking process. Hopefully, I’ll finish the rest by tomorrow night. We had to go around and do the basic yard clean-up as well. There’s always stuff buried during the winter. Shovels, tools, toys, clothes… We’ve got to use this small window of time between the snow melting and the grass growing to clean it all up.

We discovered that our bees did not make it through the winter. I was disappointed, but not totally surprised, either. I think we both feel like there’s some gap in our beekeeping knowledge, and we aren’t sure how to fill it. There are obviously people capable enough of growing their hives that they can sell bees, and yet most beekeepers in our area have a lot of failure of hives. That tells you that we’re missing something. Anyway, we’ve got to clean up the hives, and hopefully we can figure things out and try again next year.

The geese and ducks are back, and it’s been fun to watch them around the property again. And our own ducks and chickens have been loving the warm weather. We’re finally getting a lot of eggs again! Now I just need to work on getting my “eggs for sale” sign posted back up. Should be enough of a demand for them with everything going on…

I started to side our cinderblock garage with barn boards. We’ve been meaning to do this for a couple of years, but one of our goals for this year is to get our buildings looking decent again. They were looking rough when we moved in, but it’s been over 4 years, and with the coop fire, well. It’s looking kind of rough around here. So I’m finally covering up the cinderblocks, and we’ll be doing stuff throughout the summer to spruce up the granary/garage.

Outside of our home and outside of our control, the world has gone mad. Or at least it feels that way. It started with concerning news about Covid-19 in Washington state and warnings from people who live there to start getting ready for a quarantine on a much larger level. I wouldn’t say I panicked, but all of my plans were put into hyperdrive. There was a renewed sense of urgency, of “Let’s get this done while we can!” I quietly got ready, making a lot of trips to town to make sure we were ready to be stuck at home.

About a week later, news of the virus causing problems on cruise ships started triggering all kinds of talk, and within a week of that, Wisconsin shut down all schools. And now, all “non-essential” businesses are shut down. I saw a meme that made me laugh pretty hard the other day… “I don’t think anyone expected that when we changed the clocks earlier this month, we’d go from standard time to twilight zone.” It’s weird because we always knew something like this was possible, but just always hoped we’d be wrong? It’s not even the virus thing that we thought was possible, because that was sort of a blind-side. But the possibility of complete economic upheaval, that was something we knew was possible.

Anyway, Scott still has a job to go to for now (thank goodness), but a lot of businesses around the state (and the country) have shut down. The latest concerning news is that in Vermont, they are telling big box stores that they have to stop selling non-essentials in-store. People can still order for pick-up or order online and have things delivered to their homes… for now. I just wonder if that’s going to change. And I also wonder, if this is happening in Vermont, where next? But Scott’s place of employment manufactures medical supplies, so while they aren’t manufacturers of facemasks or ventilators, they potentially have the ability to start making parts for things because of the type of business that they are.

I’ve said it before, but the biggest disruption in all of this for me is not being able to go to church. Basically, Easter is not going to be celebrated as families or in churches (at least not with a congregation present). And it’s really sad. But as for the rest of it, some of it has been an inconvenience, but hasn’t changed much. We already homeschooled, we already looked like we were shopping for the apocalypse, we already grow our own food.

It was stressful, waiting to find out if Scott could keep working. For now, he’s still mostly going into work. He worked from home on Wednesday, and that worked out surprisingly well. He won’t do it next week, but he probably will at least one day a week until all of this is over. And it’s a little sad to not be able to see the few people we actually saw before all of this. I can’t ask for anybody to watch the kids for a couple of hours either, so that’s kind of rough, but not a huge deal.

Oh, and I started a new sourdough starter. I also attempted to make ginger ale, but I realized that my ginger bug was inactive. That was sad. But the sourdough worked, and I made my first batch of bread in a long time. I’m going to be making bread a lot more frequently now that I can’t just pick some up when I need it.

Silver lining? I feel more on top of things in terms of planning and being prepared. The house is a disaster, but we are making progress where it counts the most. It’s always a challenge when the weather gets warm. Can you believe it’s difficult to get all six of the kids in one place and convince them to either clean, help, or just not make a mess? 😉 But we put a new door on the back of the house, prioritized gardening, started sorting through and cleaning our homesteading stuff, and solidified plans in case this whole thing leads to a rough economic time like we think it might.

What have you been up to? Are you hanging in there?


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