May 2020 to March 2021- Some Thoughts in the Time of Covid-19

May 2020 to March 2021- Some Thoughts in the Time of Covid-19

I wrote this in May of 2020 at the beginning of what has turned out to be almost 12 months of dealing with the pandemic caused by Covid-19. At the time we were in strict lock-downs in California. I didn’t publish it and just reread it in my draft post folder. I’m not sure why I didn’t publish it. Maybe because we were all dealing with way too much at the time, and it’s not in keeping with the usual style of my blog. But reading it now I realize that I still have many of the same thoughts, feelings and hope for the future. Now that the vaccine roll out has started I pray that we remember some of the lessons learned over the past year.

May 2020…

“Times of scarcity need to be met with generosity, times of fear with comfort, times of uncertainty with presence. When we care for those around us, we create a field of love.”

Thomas Hubl.

Hello out there. How are you doing? We are now in the 7th week of California’s shelter-in-place and social distancing requirements. I am feeling, as I am sure you are as well, a little stir crazy. I miss my friends and our easy social gatherings. I miss the company and passion of my fellow gardeners. The remainder of our current County Master Gardener class, of which I am one of the hosts, is on Zoom. It’s not the same. I miss volunteering at the Botanical Gardens. I miss my bookclubs. I miss cooking for friends and our impromptu dinners. I know it has been even more difficult for many of you who are trying to balance work, children, home schooling, meals, and some space for yourself.

Maybe you are not missing commuting, or traffic, or the hectic round of activities that fill your days and those of your children. I hope you are finding new passions and avenues to express yourself.

What do you think back to normal will look like? What are you going to do when things open up a little? I am not sure I will return to a ‘normal’ (meaning the way things were) way of life before a vaccine is available. I won’t feel comfortable going to movies or restaurants or large gatherings. Here in Fort Bragg our ‘normal’ summer events have all been cancelled. There will be no film festival or music festival this year, the theater company cancelled the rest of the season, I doubt we will hold the regular 4th of July celebration… it goes on and on. A disaster for a small coastal town that depends on tourism.

When this is all over, the world and my community will not look the same. Maybe we should spend some time considering what we want to keep and what we should drop. It’s time for a reset.

Here are some things I hope will be part of the new normal.

The new normal may contain a greater sense of community. See this happy tear jerking article about a wedding in Washington Square. If that type of thing continues, our lives will be enriched. None of us stand alone.

Maybe the new normal will have a different attitude towards health care. Would you want the person standing next to you in the grocery store, or the wait person serving you at a restaurant to be without healthcare because they couldn’t afford it? Would you want them to be out and about because they had to be, even though they might be sick? Because they couldn’t afford to see a Dr. or they couldn’t afford to get a flu shot? This is only the first global pandemic, there very well could be more.

While I am on healthcare, maybe medical school could be less expensive. We don’t have enough internists or GPs because students need the extra income from specialties to repay loans. Maybe tuition could be forgiven if a Dr. will spend time in a small rural hospital. Rural communities have problems recruiting physicians because they can’t pay enough to cover their medical school costs. These folks are our heroes. They shouldn’t spend a good part of their lives in debt.

Maybe the new normal will bring a new appreciation for our teachers. Those of you home schooling right now are realizing how difficult a job it is.

Maybe the new normal will mean universal affordable access to broadband and the internet. This is a subject I feel strongly about, I even wrote a letter to the NY Times, a personal first. The major cable companies have ignored rural or low income communities and our government has done nothing to help; it’s criminal. If you don’t have internet because it isn’t available in your area, or the internet speed is inadequate, or it’s too expensive for your income, you are out of luck. The kids can’t access school, you can’t work remotely, Zoom conferences aren’t possible, no streaming Netflix, and forget about having virtual cocktail parties with friends. Even reading the news is difficult because many newspapers don’t deliver anymore, and you can’t read them on line. Which means you aren’t educated and you can’t be part of your larger community or the world.

My new normal will contain a large dose of gratitude and appreciation. Gratitude that we are still here and appreciation for many things we took for granted.

What about you?



In My Garden – February 2021

In My Garden – February 2021

Well, it is still February although admittedly near the end. My In My Garden – March 2021 post will not be too far behind. Spring is finally just starting to show its face around here. It has been an unusually cold winter for these parts, although not nearly as cold as those poor souls in the southeastern part of the U.S. Still, it has delayed the emergence of spring by a few weeks.

I spent the early part of February packing and moving into our second home in Oakland (see the March version of In My Kitchen, which is yet to be posted). So I didn’t spend much time in my Fort Bragg garden. In Oakland, which is over 3 hours south of here, spring has definitely sprung. The tulip magnolias are blooming and folks are walking around in the shirt sleeves. Not so here, we are still bundled up.

There are, however, some first signs of spring.

The pollinator garden has early daffodils.

Pollinator Garden - Feb. 2021

Pollinator Garden – Feb. 2021

Following is a picture of the front garden. Remember from an earlier post we decided to seed the front garden with barley seeds. The tip came from what they used on the dunes in San Francisco when they created Golden Gate Park. Our soil in the front is mostly sand and of very poor quality. Anyway, the barley has quite successfully seeded itself. We’ll have to see what happens later in the season.

Front Garden - Feb. 2021

Front Garden – Feb. 2021
Barley is emerging

In the vegetable garden the cabbages are heading up and the baby kale looks very healthy.

Cabbage heading up

Cabbage heading up

Baby kale

Baby kale

I was going to compare this year’s garden to the same time last year but, it seems I never got around to writing one in February of 2020. Who knew at that time that we were on the brink of a major pandemic.

Be well everyone, get your vaccine when it is available, practice masking and social distancing. Things are looking brighter but it is not over yet. We need to look after each other.

In My Garden – December 2020 to January 2021

In My Garden – December 2020 to January 2021

This post covers December as well as part of January. It’s winter here on the N CA coast and things are definitely taking a rest, it’s wet out so I have been avoiding stepping on the soggy ground or doing any digging. I have ordered some poppies to plant and they will be arriving later this month, so I will need to get out there to get them into the ground. Meanwhile things look a little sad except for the vegetable garden which is producing lots of healthy greens.

The Aussies love this time of year because it is cooler and they can run around without getting too overheated, not to mention all the puddles to jump in.

Most plants are sleeping, waiting for warmer weather. I cut back the spring and summer blooming perennials so the garden is looking a bit empty.

This time of year slugs are a big issue…and big is the word. We have banana slugs here and they can actually grow to the size of a small banana. I have to keep a close watch on things and check the garden each day for signs of damage.

A few things are still blooming and/or starting to bloom.

The Cuphea is in bloom all year.

The rain has brought mushrooms, lots of mushrooms of infinite variety.

Some of them are huge! I don’t know enough about them to name the species so I won’t be eating any of them.

At the end of this month I will plant more lettuce and a row of snap peas.

With the storms the ocean has been wild, we’ve had big waves and I am enjoying walking on the bluff and ocean trails to view them.

I climbed to the top of a small sand dune to take this one and was almost swamped.

I hope you are staying well. The end is in site with the roll out of the vaccine. I personally can’t wait to get back to a restaurant and the gym, not to mention gathering with friends. This has been a long period of isolation. I was ever so happy to see the end of 2020.

Happy New Year!

In My Garden – November 2020

In My Garden – November 2020

My garden has been my refuge these past few months, weeks and days. We are now past one election hurdle; I suspect there are many more to come.

November is the month for putting the garden to bed, as I wish we could with all the politics swirling around right now. I have been pruning, cutting back perennials, pulling out spent fall annuals, and planting native wildflowers for spring. We’ve had our first winter rain, although slight. There is a much larger storm system on its way later this week and we had our first frost last night. I’m getting the garden ready for a lengthy well deserved rest.

That’s not true in the vegetable garden though. I will hopefully get my snap pea seeds before the rain, the bed is ready for the 30 inch tendrils of a shorter variety. Now is the time for planting. Lettuce, arugula, carrots, sprouting broccoli, chard, and cabbage are all getting a good start. They love the cooler weather.

Ready for peas

Ready for peas

This year I will cover the new seeds with bird netting. The sparrows and junkos got most of them last yer.

Sprouting Broccoli and Chard

Sprouting Broccoli and Chard


Young Cabbage Plants

Young Cabbage Plants under shade cloth to protect from cabbage worms


Lettuce, Arugula, and Carrots

Lettuce, Arugula, radishes, and Carrots covered in bird netting

Here are a few pictures of the flower beds, facing the back of the house from left to right. The blue kiddie pool is for the dogs, they like to cool off in the water after a strenuous game of ball or frisbee or tag.

There is always something to do even if it is only filling the bird feeders. For that I am thankful.

Because of the heat lamps we have been able to hold a few appropriately distanced dinner parties outside, just off the kitchen deck. Once the rains start it will be more difficult. We have a rain flap over part of the deck but it is only large enough for four to be safely distant from each other, and it won’t work if there is any wind.

Ready for dinner

Ready for dinner

In the pollinator garden most of the plants have been sheared back. Amazingly that one rain shower (it was only .25 inch) has resulted in seeds sprouting.

And here, just for recording purposes, is our sad front yard. It’s mostly sand and weeds, our leach field for the septic system, and a playground for the dogs. I have purchased some seeds to improve the soil and will be working on it this week before the rain on Thursday. So here is the sad ‘before’:

Stay safe everyone, stay well, be kind to each other. I think we all need some tenderness right now.

I love your comments and suggestions. Thank you so much for visiting with me in my garden in Fort Bragg, California on the coast.







In My Garden – October 2020

In My Garden – October 2020

Back Garden in Fort Bragg

Back Garden in Fort Bragg

I’ve had a request from a reader to put the garden beds in context. Here is a view of the three garden beds often pictured individually, with the vegetable garden at the back of the right side.

And here is left of the picture above. The following pictures go from left to right, the vegetable garden is in the back on the far right.

left of back garden with Casey

Center of back garden

Center of back garden

Right of back garden

right of back garden – Fort Bragg CA

Veggie garden

veggie garden

The unwatered grass is brown. We don’t water the lawn (which consists mostly of dandelions) in the summer because here in N CA most of our grass is summer dormant. Even at the edges of the cultivated garden where it is watered, it only starts looking green this time of year.

And what about the front garden, do you wonder? There are not pictures posted. Well, it is mostly a wasteland. It’s where we toss the ball and frisbee of Casey and Quinn. It’s also the location of our septic system and is very sandy plus nutrient poor. We have plans to try and improve the soil this fall. I’ll write more on that once the rain starts but I don’t want to seed anything just yet. I don’t have high hopes but we read an interesting article about how they reclaimed Golden Gate Park in San Francisco from the sand dunes. We are going to attempt the same.

The dahlias are still blooming although I expect them to be finished soon. The pineapple sage (the red plants in large pots on the right side of the back garden) are attracting the attention of the hummingbirds. They love the color red.

Remember the summer squash and bush beans I planted in August? Well, success! I have been harvesting zucchini although the plants have attracted a bit of powdery mildew. The purple bush beans are showing tiny beans.

August planted summer squash

Purple bush beans

Purple bush beans

The lettuce, cilantro, basil and arugula are doing well. We’ve been having wonderful salads.

lettuce, cilantro, basil and arugula

lettuce, cilantro, basil and arugula

This past weekend I planted carrots, parsnips, radishes, lettuce and more arugula. The arugula is coming up after only three days.

As you can see from the large picture of the garden above, there are a few winter squashes almost ready to pick. I’m not sure if I will plant them again next year. The plants took up a lot of room and didn’t really produce well compared to the space they required.

A good friend has some cabbage starts for me in her greenhouse. This weekend I will prepare one of the empty beds for planting them when they are ready.

That’s it for this month. I am looking forward to the winter rains, they mark a quieter time in the garden. About this time of year I am ready to wrap it up, except for the vegetable garden of course.

Stay well everyone, and safe. The next few weeks promise to be interesting. We feel in a bit of a bubble up here on the coast in Fort Bragg, but politics is everywhere. There is no escaping although sometimes I wish I could put my head in the sand. The garden is a wonderful escape.