I don’t mean to sound alarmist, but lately, I get more and more freaked out every time I need to go to the grocery store. It’s a strange, uneasy feeling seeing customers in masks, wearing latex gloves, not knowing who has touched your food, and what contagions you might bring back into your household and pass onto your family. The whole process stresses me out.
That’s why I’m so grateful I only need to go out once every few weeks to restock perishables such as milk, cheese and fruits — and hope some toilet paper still remains. It makes me doubly thankful for a successful hunting season, with a freezer full of venison, pheasants and geese to last us through these troubling months under lockdown.
We still have a few frozen wineberries and wax beans too, canned tomato sauce and pickles, homemade maple syrup and daily eggs from our chickens — all perks of living on a small hobby farmette. I got the garden back up and running for this year, although in a new layout — raised beds, herb containers and potato bags, for ease of maintenance and added yard space.
Recently, we polished off our final rockfish fillet from a writer’s outing to the Chesapeake last spring and supplemented our diet with four rainbow trout caught during the surprise opener. I brined them in water, brown sugar and salt, then smoked them with applewood. They turned out great, and I saved the leftovers to make a chowder in the crockpot a few days later.
Another evening, we enjoyed a stew made of potatoes, smoked deer sausage, ramps and dandelion greens, salvaged from a weed-pulling exercise in the strawberry patch. After mowing down an overgrown tangle of vines, I realized I had fiddlehead ferns growing on a section of my property, and I snipped off the tender coils to blanch and sauté with butter and garlic. Maybe, if I’m lucky, I’ll even happen upon some morels while out scouting for turkeys.
There are other useful things to be harvested from nature besides food. Dried broomcorn has been bound into a makeshift hearth brush. A tree brought down in a windstorm was converted to firewood for next winter. A shed antler plucked from the ground now adorns my den, and a night of worm-picking supplied me with fresh fishing bait for the weekend.
As a virus continues to spread and strike fear in the hearts and minds of people around the world, nature is overflowing with bounty. But one of the greatest things it provides is a distraction from the day-to-day worries and anxieties of living amid this horrible disease.
Getting outside, letting the sun and the wind kiss your face, listening to the birds in song, and seeing the trees and flowers come to life after a long winter is so therapeutic, and it makes me appreciate the outdoors even more. Being stuck in front of a computer all day while working from home is draining, but I always find relief after escaping to a stream, the woods or even my own backyard. In these trying times, nature certainly provides.
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