We, the editors of Hobby Farms, have been hesitant to chime in about COVID-19 (novel coronavirus), for some pretty obvious reasons. We’re not medical professionals, scientists or elected officials, who should have our full attention right now.
Veering so far out of our lane could (rightly) be seen as opportunistic. Every media outlet has a hot take right now. We get it.
But we also recognize that our publications, both print and digital, serve as a bridge for many between the workaday realities of “normal” life (which will return after this) and a more self-sustaining existence. We strive every day to help average folks visualize a path into growing, harvesting, storing, preparing and, yes, eating food raised at home. This is our job, yes, but I can assure you that it’s also a driving passion for our staff.
And the reality of this strange moment is that our Facebook feeds are full of empty grocery shelves as people panic-stock their pantries faster than retailers can keep up. (And let’s not even talk about the toilet paper thing.)
Everything’s canceled and closed. We’re trying to learn how to do our jobs from home with our kids asking for snacks and help with math we forgot decades ago every five minutes. And we’re afraidâ€”for our children, our parents and, when we find time to stop to think about it, ourselves.
We put together 20 homesteading skills you can learn this year.
For the Aspirational
Of course we’ll get through this. We understand (maybe better than some) that crops will keep growing, unaffected by novel coronavirus. Egg-laying hens will keep laying eggs. Livestock animals will continue to grow to harvest weight.
Some of you no doubt have a freezer full of protein and a pantry stocked with the preserved products of last year’s harvest. Great! You were ready. If you have more than you need, I sure hope you share something with someone who doesn’t.
But many of our readers aspire to gain a little more self-sufficiency.
A lot of you lead crazy lives, with demanding jobs and over-packed schedules. You fall asleep at night flipping through our magazines and digital stories, dreaming of one day finding the time to start a decent garden or get some laying hens. You want to retire to the country, sure, but that day seems so far away. So for now you wish for some time to do something â€¦ anything.
Well, now you have time. Everything’s canceled, so let’s do something.
The novel coronavirus is a bad situation, to be sure, but there’s now some opportunity to learn a few new things. And, because our publication is about growing food, we have some ideas.
Start a Garden
Obviously, starting a garden today won’t put food on your table right now. We know that.
But growing your own food is incredibly empoweringâ€”and when times are uncertain, that’s important. And while a garden planted today is unlikely to produce anything before the novel coronavirus peaks and releases us back to our normal lives (you might be able to get some radishes), this event has lain bare our limited control against unexpected events.
You don’t have to go all doomsday prepper to understand that growing and putting away food is, generally speaking, a good practice. And right now, at the start of gardening season, when you can buy select starts or purchase seeds by the cartful, is the perfect time to realize that.
Take a look at what you normally eat, and start there. Bok choy and kohrabi are fun to grow, but if you’re not regularly consuming something, maybe don’t begin with it. You can always try cucamelons in subsequent growing seasons.
Take a look at your storage capabilities. You can freeze, dry and can your harvest, so plan now for how you’ll preserve stuff and where you’ll store it. Learn techniques such as canning or freezer-prep now so you’re ready when the time comes. (And so you don’t lose food to spoilage while you’re figuring it out).
Where will you grow food? Anywhere.
You can grow herbs in a kitchen window and line your driveway with containers. You can build some Permabeds out back, but don’t forget that yard out your front window. Unless you have a ruminant around, that front yard isn’t going to feed you when you’re hungry. (Plenty of people are saying “less mowing, more growing” these days.)
And working outdoors, away from the talking heads on TV? Always a good idea. Soil can even help you emotionally, which is a nice perk in trying times.
Look for the Growers
Here’s the thingâ€”novel coronavirus or no, your farmers are still growing food. And they want to get their perishables to you before they go bad.
If you’ve never checked out your local farmers market, now would be a good time to pay it a visit. They have food thereâ€”lots of itâ€”and properly washed produce is as safe as it’s ever been.
But maybe you’re limiting your trips out of the house to limit exposure to and potential spread of the novel coronavirus. That’s a good thing. You can still get some farm-fresh food without having to socially distance yourself from fellow shoppers at market tables.
Look at the vendors on your local market’s website. Most will have Facebook pages, so check those out. Many are opening their farms for product pickup right now, while others offer delivery (or figuring out how to introduce it).
Buying food from local farmers is a win-win. You get fresh, healthy food and support local businesses during a trying time.
D Something Y
Empty grocery shelves are a scary sight. And when you go to grab a loaf of bread or a box of pasta only to find open air, it can be disconcerting.
But you can make a lot of the things you normally buy.
Do you have flour? You can bake your own bread. You can also make your own pasta. Tortillas, too. Yes, you’ll run out of flour eventually and have to find some â€¦ but you can get through this first wave of weirdness while stores figure out how to stock shelves.
Did your state close down bars? Now might be a good time to learn home brewing.
There are things most of us can’t do, like grow a field of wheat and mill it for flour. But, also for most of us, there are things we don’t do that we could learn. So rather than fighting fellow shoppers, let’s focus on learning new stuff that makes us just a little bit more independent.
(But you should absolutely order a carryout meal or two from a local farm-to-table restaurant.)
Hobby Farms is, at the end of the day, dedicated to empowering our readersâ€”to aspire, to learn and to grow. Today, it’s in the face of the novel coronavirus and its sweeping effects on normal life. Tomorrow, it will be something else. And we will do more than just get through it.
We will do something.