Lockdown has been a time to try out new activities with the family. Coping has been easier with busy hands and the goal of building something positive. Trying to make life beautiful for our two small children (Marty 5, Mika 2) has helped us to find gratitude in the midst of all the madness. Here are some of the projects that helped us get through the pandemic:
I’m all about killing two (or more) birds with one stone. Chemistry, math, life skills, family time, sustenance, and avoiding the siren pull of the iPad. Baking has it all. We baked muffins, donuts, cakes, cookies, pizza, and more. Marty has a constant love affair with chocolate. Mika just likes sweet things. Anything sweet.
I feel like fermenting stuff was very trendy during lockdown. We tried sourdough, kombucha, tsukemono, and sauerkraut. I think only the tsukemono is going to stick. I got tired of chugging tangy tea and Paul and Marty were, like, SUPER not into it. My scoby got about three inches thick and after six months of “hibernating” (er...aka neglecting) it, a thin layer of green mold grew over the top of my kombucha. Ick. Pinterest fail.
Marty was perhaps even less into the sourdough. I tried sneaking sourdough into his pizza, snacks and pancakes. Marty: “Mama, does this have that sourdough stuff again?” Me: “Honey, be thankful that Mama can prepare your food in the absence of conventional food supply chains. Enjoy how healthy your gut feels.” Marty: “Mama, can we PLEASE just have normal pancakes again?”
I found a takuan recipe that I LOVE (and my mother in law and mom love it too!) And no MSG or artificial food coloring! She has more recipes I’d like to try out some day. But at any rate, I HIGHLY recommend the tsukemono recipe.
I’ve dabbled in gardening before, but in the past I generally started from seedlings. I decided that this was the time that I would start a garden from seeds. Y'know, try it OG style. This was harder than I thought. I feel that one may approach gardening from a very simple place: plant a seed, provide care, sunlight, and water. One may also approach it with great vim and vigor: Start by testing the pH and nutrient make-up of the soil. Consider sunlight hours, the seasons, one’s FDA zone, should we go with user-friendly hybrids, or open-pollinated heirlooms? Should we go with the lasagna method, square foot method? What will our low water waste plan be? How will we deal with insects, fungus, and other disease? OMG. I can see why many in urban areas have left produce cultivation largely to the professionals.
I spent the summer studying (er...attending YouTube university) and trying to get our soil prepared for planting. We began planting in the fall and started to enjoy a harvest starting in early winter (yay for SoCal eternal sunshine).The kids enjoyed watching the seeds sprout and grow into edibles. I think a summer time garden will be much more engaging, however. Winter was the season for root veggies, lots of salad greens and winter squash. The kids were more or less unimpressed. Marty: "Mama, that salad almost made me vomit." Me: [eyeroll].. Summer will hopefully bring melons, corn, strawberries, tomatoes for spaghetti, bean pole teepees, and lots of flowers. #Pinterestdreams.
The kids love forts. We started out pretty simply using couch cushions, boxes, and blankets. It was fun coming up with different configurations and trying to use different items around the house.
Eventually, this led to Paul building them a fort in the backyard. My parents gifted a lot of their old tools and gardening equipment to us when they downsized right before the pandemic hit. This made it a lot easier to try out woodworking. Have you heard of culled lumber? So awesome. Hardware stores will sell imperfect lumber at a deep discount. You just have to be willing to roam the stores and leave empty handed some days when they don't have any to sell. The kids enjoy climbing to the top and looking over the neighborhood.
Here is another very trendy and fun thing to do: raise backyard chickens! Chickens are great because they are generally friendly and intelligent creatures, lay yummy eggs, and provide manure for your garden. They do require a good amount of time and commitment, however. The kids loved holding the sweet baby chicks, naming them, and watching them eat and drink. They grow incredibly fast and seem to change every day.
They started out in this small brooder in our laundry room...
But soon were feathered out enough to be moved to their larger coop and run in the backyard.
Meet Churchy La Femme, Josephine, and Bilbo.
Josephine at nine weeks. They grow so fast!
Can’t wait till we get some fresh eggs!
A lot of our projects stemmed from a desire to be more sustainable and gain a little more self-reliance. Learning some new skills has been both challenging and rewarding. I hope we can continue to grow in these skills even after the pandemic has passed. We’d like the kids to grow up with a sense about where their food comes from and an appreciation for the earth and all it provides for us.