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Gardening in the Pandemic

Pear Leaves.

Buds of leaves and flowers are beginning to burst. Spring has sprung with its sunny yet chilly good news. I planted in the greenhouse and in the ground on Friday.

In the greenhouse:

Multi-colored Swiss Chard, Ferry-Morse, 50-60 days.

In the ground:

Oregon Giant Snow Peas, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, 60 days.
Super Sugarsnap Peas, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, 60 days.
Hakurei Turnips, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, 38 days.

I took one of the cars for a spin, literally. I drove out of the subdivision, north on the lane to the highway, and proceeded to the roundabout at the intersection leading alternately to Ely, the state park, or back to the City of Solon. I drove around a few times. My gas gauge showed full, so I drove back home. The traffic was light so I didn’t bother anyone.

Today is the ninth day since I worked at the home, farm and auto supply store. I began my 30-day unpaid leave of absence for the coronavirus pandemic on April 6. Time away from structured work will scramble life in a way I hadn’t anticipated. Unimportant things fall off. There is new focus on daily habits and patterns. Something different and hopeful will emerge from the isolation. There is no path back to my life before the pandemic. I appreciate social isolation yet recognize our common endeavors on this floating blue-green sphere. I look forward to diving back into society.

The rest of my day was spent considering how to layout the garden, working in the garden, and managing seedlings in my portable greenhouse. I expect to bring seedling trays back from the farm on Sunday so I’d better make room.

It’s been 35 days since Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds activated the state emergency operations center to prepare for COVID-19. According to the Iowa coronavirus website there have been 1,388 confirmed cases of the disease and 31 deaths. Hardest hit have been middle aged adults (ages 41-60) with 537 cases, followed by adults (ages 18-40) with 432. We don’t have detailed statistics about ages of the deceased. 506 people are recovering.

“Flattening the curve” entered common parlance. The idea is to spread contraction of COVID-19 over time so medical capacity is not overwhelmed by patients needing care. As of today, Iowa has enough hospital beds, ICU units and invasive ventilators to meet demand during the pandemic. It is early, but if caseload holds at current levels we may run out of ICU units first. We are a long way from using available hospital beds. Given the projected numbers, a tweak in the system will be needed to accommodate patients. Today, peak resource use is projected for April 30.

We don’t know how many have contracted COVID-19 because of a lack of testing beyond people who self-identify with symptoms or are diagnosed by a medical practitioner. Many have criticized the government response to the pandemic. After all, we live in a Democracy with social media. My sense is the state is doing the best they can while the shit show in Washington, D.C. provides distraction for those who want it. There is no lack of things to distract us.

The governor announced the June 2 primary election will go on. The Secretary of State announced he will send absentee ballot requests to every registered voter. This weekend we’ll print requests ourselves, fill them out, and send them to the county auditor. The only contested races here are for county supervisor, U.S. Senate, and county sheriff. Easy decisions all. The big election is Tuesday, Nov. 3.

It’s hard to believe people are undecided about the direction of the country. Social media allows minority opinions to flourish and gain traction within that small universe of voters. People are bitching and moaning about various aspects of the candidates and process. But undecided? How is that even possible now that we know the choices for president? In October 2008 David Sedaris summarized my current feelings about undecided voters.

I think of being on an airplane. The flight attendant comes down the aisle with her food cart and, eventually, parks it beside my seat. “Can I interest you in the chicken?” she asks. “Or would you prefer the platter of shit with bits of broken glass in it?”

To be undecided in this election is to pause for a moment and then ask how the chicken is cooked.

Rain is forecast after 2 p.m. There is more planting to do, branches to cut into firewood and fencing to clean and mend. Making space in the greenhouse takes time, but that will be done in the garage if it rains.

It’s part of sustaining a life during the coronavirus pandemic.