• Plants & Gardening

    Growing a Victory Garden. Is it Worth the Trouble?

    Vegetable Plants, Growing a Victory Garden. Is it Worth the Trouble? Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2020/04/13/victory-garden/ #Victorygarden #kitchengarden #gardening #plants #food #foodsupply #tomatoes #Covid-19 #pandemic
    Vegetable Plants, Growing a Victory Garden. Is it Worth the Trouble? Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2020/04/13/victory-garden/ #Victorygarden #kitchengarden #gardening #plants #food #foodsupply #tomatoes #Covid-19 #pandemic
    Tomato, carrots, peppers and more

    Like many gardeners, when the Covid-19 pandemic hit and people started shopping for food in bulk, I wondered whether I should grow a victory garden. Victory gardens were large kitchen gardens homeowners kept during World Wars I and II as a way of ensuring food for themselves and others. Since a lot of rural people left the country to fight in the wars, the agriculture industry became strained. So the government started a campaign to transform every backyard and public park into land for food cultivation. It was a citizen’s patriotic duty.

    The campaign worked. Many homeowners, including my in-laws’ families, grew their own food in their backyards. If they had extra harvest, they passed it on to those distributing it to soldiers and others in need.

    A Pandemic Straining the Food Supply

    Now, of course, we’re at war with a disease. A disease that’s sickened some of our food supply workers. Though America produces much more than enough food for our markets, we may suffer a break in that production if more workers become sick. The logical conclusion is to grow your own food. It’s spring and summer’s coming. In a time of a pandemic, it’s the perfect opportunity to install that kitchen garden you’ve thought about but never got around to before.

    What Are the Costs of a Victory Garden?

    For a kitchen garden, you of course need a growing space. This could be anything from a large chunk of your yard to a pot on your balcony. If you were really into it, you could grow some food indoors. But the question is is setting it all up, in terms of buying the seeds, plants, and soil and then either buying or building raised planters, worth the time and money?

    It depends on your perspective. One tomato plant that costs five dollars can produce 20 pounds of tomatoes over the season. You won’t have to buy tomatoes for probably three months. How much do you spend on tomatoes otherwise? Let’s say, for simplicity sake, five dollars every week. That’s sixty dollars in total that you’d save on one vegetable. Not an enormous amount, especially since you’d have to buy soil for the plant and perhaps a container, and factor in supplemental water. And that all assumes you won’t have to treat pests.

    Now, take those figures and multiply them by 100 as that’s how many plants one couple would probably need to sustain themselves. If loosely tallied, you find that you spend a small amount and save a large amount. That’s great! And the upshot is you have organic food that tastes much sweeter and fresher than store-brought vegetables, which are bred to look nice but often taste bland.

    Time Well Spent?

    Another issue is the time and effort growing a kitchen garden entails. It’s not just about plopping a plant in soil and walking away, right? First, if you plan the stages properly, you will ideally grow a first-round crop of lettuce and then two weeks later, another crop so that as one head matures, another is growing for later. And so on. It’s called succession planting and it takes planning.

    Also, kitchen gardens require watering, fertilizing, tying up vines, general maintenance, and most importantly, harvesting. You have to be ready to preserve all of the food you’ve just grown when the fruit and vegetables ripen. That includes picking, properly storing, blanching and freezing, and sometimes canning. My husband’s family did this when he was growing up and the work can be a constant chore.

    How Secure Is the Food Supply Chain?

    As I mentioned, the food supply chain only stays stable if we have healthy workers to do the farming for us. Because of the new restrictive immigration laws, farm managers are low on manual laborers, those who pick and process the fruits and vegetables. Also, some laborers have become ill with Covid-19. This in turn has caused some processing plants to shut down.

    California Had Foresight, the Midwest Not So Much

    So far, we’re lucky that California’s governor immediately announced a stay-at-home order early in the pandemic. Not only did this save lives, the number one priority, but it enabled most agriculture workers to stay on the job. Because they’re on the job, we’re still getting our tomatoes and most all other fruits and vegetables in grocery stores. California supplies over 80 percent of those to the United States. People may knock California’s politics, but the agriculture workers of California feed us everyday.

    Unlike California, governors in the plains and midwest states did not issue stay-at-home orders early. The biggest meat-packing plants are in these states. Now, we’re learning workers are being diagnosed with Covid-19 by the hundreds. Major plants are shutting down and a meat shortage is coming. Perhaps, it’s not such a bad thing since as we could all stand to eat less red meat and pork.

    What I Finally Decided

    I had all of these issues and arguments swirling in my mind these last few weeks. Should I throw myself into a huge kitchen garden or not? I certainly have the space, and by the grace of God, so far, we have the money. But that maintenance and work I mentioned above held me back. What also held me back was the reality that I have three children, a five-person family. I’d have to grow 700-800 plants in about 1000 square feet of space. That’s a lot of everything. Plus, in summer and fall, the garden would be at least a sizable part-time job.

    So I compromised. I’m setting aside about 300 square feet of space and growing about 200 plants (not including every last berry and fig). So I’m growing about a third of our fresh vegetables and fruits. To create 1000 square feet of space, I’d need to dig out a huge area of lawn and then fence it off and build several raised beds and I don’t think I have the energy this year. It’s enough just to stay sane during the pandemic. Perhaps, later in the summer I’ll regret it, I don’t know. But right now, I’m counting on the wonderful people of California’s agriculture system to keep us fed. I wish them good health for their own lives, and afterward, for our well being too.

  • Personal

    Keeping a Special Needs Kid Busy During Covid-19

    Special Needs Kid Drawing, A Mom's Covid-19 Diary: Keeping My Special Needs Kid Occupied, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2020/03/18/special-needs-kid #Covid-19, #coronavirus #momlife #diary #mom #specialneeds #kid #drawing #Seattle #quarantine
    Monday, Day 5

    By Monday, our family settled into this new life of sequestration. My husband hunkered down in his mountain of work, my son started taking walks, my daughter practiced her saxophone, and my youngest, well, she is a special needs kid so it’s more difficult to keep her occupied.

    Sad Beginnings Become Better Over Time

    Thirteen years ago, my youngest was starved and ignored as a newborn. Little food, no care, no comfort. I could make you cry with the story. She basically lay in a crib the first five months of her life in an attic. That attic had no electricity. She contracted pneumonia. She and her brother and sister lived in squalor until rescued by Poland’s equivalent of Child Protective Services. Thank God. Then, two well-meaning clueless Americans (me and my husband) adopted them from an orphanage for a happy-ever-after story, more or less.

    This, and perhaps poor prenatal care, gave my daughter mild brain damage. Born physically healthy, she scores low on intelligence tests and was diagnosed years ago with mild cerebral palsy. But, as many special needs parents know, my child is really smart. She reads facial expressions well, overflows with empathy for others, loves to laugh and crack jokes. She does okay in school and tries incredibly hard but can’t grasp concepts. Has poor memory. And so, occupying her attention for long bouts of time is difficult.

    How Do We Occupy Special Needs Kids While Sheltering at Home?

    Right now, I’m grasping at straws. School assignments have been spotty. My daughter has some math homework, which we’ve done, but she’s not clear where to look for it. She gets bored, asks about what we all can do every day as a family; asks when do we get a new president. She understands we have to stay home because of the virus but wishes she were in school. It particularly got me when she asked if there would ever be a shot to cure people like we always get in September. Smart girl.

    An Imperfect List of Activities

    I haven’t solved occupying her but thought I’d list some of the things we’re doing. Most of these don’t involve me. And yes, that can make for sloppiness. She has spilled bottles of stuff many times before. I just let that part go. And I’m sorry, I’d love to be super mom and be super involved with her home education every single day but I have work to do. We always look over her homework. And, (and I think other special needs parents will agree) sometimes I need a break from kids! So this is what we’ve allowed her to do when I’m busy.

    Morning
    • Get dressed every day and fix her hair (about 30 minutes)
    • Find all dirty laundry and bring basket downstairs (20 minutes)
    • Make her own breakfast of cereal or toast (15-30 minutes)
    • Check for homework and do what she can independently (30 minutes)
    • Watch TV (1-2 hours, sorry, I’m weak)
    • Read at least 3 chapters of a book (1 hour)
    • Color in her adult coloring book (can be up to 2 hours)
    • Clean her desk and dresser (30 minutes)
    • Do Free Rice or IXL or other online educational games (1 hour)
    • Paint her nails (which she loves to do and I dislike immensely, 1 hour)
    • Write in her journal about this strange time (1 hour)
    • Lay out a blanket outside and listen to music (1 hour)
    • Make own “weird lunch,” likes peanut butter and honey (30 minutes)
    Afternoon and Evening
    • Practice counting backwards by 5s (30 minutes)
    • Play some games on her iPad (limited to 1 hour)
    • Bake with her older sister (up to 2 hours)
    • Do Duolingo for Spanish (30 minutes)
    • Practice handwriting / Copy paragraph from book on paper (1 hour)
    • Sing karaoke on ipad (limited to 1 hour)
    • Take a walk with her older sister (30 minutes)
    • Take photos of her dog or cats with her iphone (1 hour)
    • Pick a book off MY shelf and read some of it (30 minutes)
    • Call either grandma on the phone and talk (15-30 minutes)
    • Text her aunties and friends on phone (30 minutes)
    • Weed with me in the yard (she actually likes this, 30 minutes)
    • Help with dinner, set the table, etc. (30 minutes)
    • Empty the dishwasher and try to sort silverware (15 minutes)
    • Draw a picture to hang on her wall (1 hour when she’s inspired)
    • Take a bubble bath (which she loves, esp with music, 1 hour)
    • Sing while her dad plays piano (30 minutes)
    • Fold clothes as best she can and put in proper drawers (15 minutes)
    • Watch two episodes of Carpool Karaoke in bed (20 minutes)
    Ideas?

    I realize that every special needs kid is different with different capabilities. And I realize that some parents may feel these don’t apply or are too high-functioning. So let me know what ideas or activities you use to keep your special needs kid occupied in the comments below! This is a difficult time, especially for families with a special needs kid.


    If you’d like more information on the Covid-19 illness, visit the Centers for Disease Control corona virus page here.

    If you’d like stories of inspiration, tips on gardening, book and music ideas, and more, subscribe to my monthly digest, a Vine of Ideas. In it, I send a list of short links to stuff I think is worth checking out. Also, the latest on my new books and offers. Oh and you get a free ebook featuring a special tree!

  • Personal

    An Overworked Engineer Husband During Covid-19

    Software Engineer Desk, A Mom's Covid-19 Diary: An Overworked Engineer Husband, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2020/03/17/overworked-engineer-husband/ #Covid-19 #coronavirus #momlife #Seattle #diary #mom #outbreak #pandemic #softwareengineer #overworkedengineer #quarantine
    Sunday, Day 4

    Just as my daughter started to recover from the flu, my husband got slammed with work. He’s a software architect at a large networking company. They make team-connecting software called WebEx. Well, after several governors announced school closures because of the coronavirus outbreak, parents across the U.S. needed a way to work from home. WebEx software became enormously useful and so did my overworked engineer husband.

    In an effort of good will, the company made WebEx free for everyone. That led to an avalanche of new users and the system buckling under the traffic. Needless to say, the software engineers need to ensure the system stays operable for everyone. And so, my husband’s been working from the moment he wakes up until the moment he goes to bed.

    A Job In Demand During an Epidemic

    My husband considers us lucky. He works for a company that provides a service now more precious than ever: teleconferencing. Tech companies, educators, large corporations, banks, etc. all can keep business going if they switch to working from home. But that strains those modern tech solutions. While Zoom and other video conferencing software has collapsed under the pressure, WebEx has remained operational and available, thanks to people like my husband and his colleagues.

    Daddy’s Busy

    In the past, when my husband’s worked from home and we’ve needed the kids to stay quiet in their rooms, we’ve always simply said, “Daddy’s in a meeting.” They can hear his colleagues’ voices banging through his phone’s speaker in our office and know it’s a time to leave him be. Not ask questions, not show him school projects, not practice instruments or even have loud conversations. Just read or do homework, any quiet activity. Well, starting last Thursday, Daddy was in a meeting from about seven in the morning until eleven o’clock at night.

    It was strange to hear the meetings go on and on. They usually end at the top of the hour. And then there are silent intervals. But we heard the voices all day. Once in a while he’d emerge, grab a handful of nuts and an ice tea and disappear. At mealtimes, he dropped out of the meeting and ate quickly with us. In the evenings, he and I managed to watch an episode of Peaky Blinders as he scrolled through his messages every few minutes. On Friday, he went back to his desk for a ten o’clock meeting to roll out an expansion of a database. Thankfully that went smoothly. This last weekend, some relief came as system traffic was of course lighter on Saturday and Sunday.

    A Strange Blessing

    Let me be clear, I’m not complaining. While service workers are being laid off, he’s busier than ever, which means he’s still employed. That’s a good thing for me and our children. But I do worry about others who aren’t so unfortunate. Like my sister who’s an early interventions specialist, mostly for autistic kids, who doesn’t get paid unless she works. She’s been ill. Like the bartender at the brewery we have lunch at. Super sweet guy. I don’t want him to lose his job. Like the lady who owns the cute second-hand shop I often visit in my neighborhood. Or even our big beloved bookstore. They, as well thousands of others, are all in financial pain right now.

    The Future Is Tense and Unknown

    As I look to the future, I have the luxury of feeling our family will probably be fine. My husband still has a job; we have money saved. Our kids are teenagers now, which is much easier than having little kids right now. I feel for those young families cooped up together. Even more for those with special needs children. It’s an intense test of stress and patience for parents.

    I do worry about my mom, my husband’s mom, and all of the wonderful older people in my life. I hate that a senseless flu would abruptly end an otherwise extended time on earth. And I can’t help feel enraged when I think about the politics of it. How this administration ignored the signs: refused WHO tests, told the CDC to order scientists not to test for the virus, and all other mistakes. We could have been clamping down on this sooner and saving lives. But for now, I’ll take the cacophony of colleagues’ voices in our house as a good sign and search for a reputable organization to donate to. If you have ideas, let me know.

    Tomorrow I’ll talk about how I keep my special needs daughter engaged but independent during this sequestered time. Then it will be onto whether I should spend the money to take my ancient cat to the vet, yet again. And how I’m focusing on my next novel, or not, plus an update on my daughter’s illness.


    If you’d like more information on the Covid-19 illness, visit the Centers for Disease Control corona virus page here.

    If you’d like stories of inspiration, tips on gardening, book and music ideas, and more, subscribe to my monthly digest, a Vine of Ideas. In it, I send a list of short links to stuff I think is worth checking out. Also, the latest on my new books and offers. Oh and you get a free ebook featuring a special tree!

  • Personal

    A Fever and Bedroom Quarantine During Covid-19

    Thermometer, A Mom's Diary During Covid-19: A High Fever and Bedroom Quarantine, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2020/03/16/bedroom-quarantine #Covid-19 #coronavirus #quarantine #Seattle #mom #momlife #diary #teen #bedroomquarantine
    Saturday, Day 3

    As I wrote in my last post, my daughter came down with a flu late last week. She’d been getting the chills and couldn’t sleep after her band trip to Ireland had been cancelled. While I’d hoped the mild fever she’d had of a 100.5 would go down overnight, it didn’t. She only slept a few hours and so the fever shot up to 103. She felt ragged. Tired. Depressed. She coughed a lot. So I sent her upstairs for a bedroom quarantine, worrying about whether she had Covid-19.

    A Mother Investigating an Illness

    I jumped on the net and searched the Washington State Department of Health website, checking the symptoms. My daughter had some but not others. For instance, she had a solidly high fever, now slightly above the range from 100.5 to 102. But she had a runny nose, which had been reported among symptoms but not regularly. She did not have shortness of breath, a somewhat common symptom, but she had a consistent cough. Very consistent.

    I agonized over what to do. I could call her doctor but her symptoms had only lasted a day. And with masses of people sick in more serious ways, I didn’t want to clog the system. So I waited and I fretted. The one fact reassuring me was young people recovered with little trouble.

    A Bedroom Quarantine Inside a Quarantine

    At dinnertime, I dropped off a plate of tacos and vitamin C water at her bedroom. She spent the evening there. She texted me that she was bored. Wanted to know if her dad, a cancer survivor, was more susceptible to corona virus. I told her I didn’t think so. The truth was I didn’t know. Later, when I went upstairs to see if she wanted a cookie for desert, her light was out. So I let her be.

    The next morning, I decided to look into getting her tested. What if she was contagious and might spread it to my husband, or me? How long would she be contagious? What if she gave it to her brother or sister and they, perhaps without symptoms, gave it unknowingly to an elderly person? The questions spun constantly in my mind.

    Still, with the Trump administration skimping on tests for even the confirmed ill, I knew getting her tested would be difficult. I’d read medical professionals were frustrated by the federal government’s lack of assistance. Tests were few and far between, especially for a low-risk teenager. So I went to the Gates Foundation website. A week earlier, I’d read an announcement that the foundation would be offering corona virus home test kits. But I couldn’t find any more detailed information about how to obtain the tests. Frustrated, I closed my laptop.

    Time Passed, Worry Grew

    I kept checking the time. Ten o’clock came. I texted my daughter. “You awake yet, hon?” No answer. I read more about the virus on the King County website, the CDC, The Guardian, The Seattle Times, and on and on. Eleven o’clock came. Tried to distract myself with actual work. Then eleven-thirty. I texted her again. Finally, an answer came. She was awake. “How do you feel?” I texted.

    “A lot better.”

    It turns out she’d slept 14.5 hours. From nine o’clock the previous night to eleven-thirty the next morning. I was thrilled. She came into the kitchen hungry. She ate a decent breakfast. We took her temperature: 98 degrees. Thank goodness.

    In all of my obsessive reading about the virus, I learned that she needed to be free of the fever for 72 hours. At least that’s what one website said. Others said 24 hours, others said 5 days. So I knew we had to take her temperature every day for a few days, but that night at least, I slept well.

    A New Concern

    Unfortunately, my husband didn’t. He got slammed at work. He’s a software architect for an internet hardware company, the biggest, the one you probably know, the “human network.” But because so many people across the country were working from home, they were using the company’s teleconferencing software and it was creaking under the traffic’s weight. He and a vast network of team members spun into emergency mode.

    I’ll write more about that tense day in my next post.


    If you’d like more information on the Covid-19 illness, visit the Centers for Disease Control corona virus page here.

    If you’d like stories of inspiration, tips on gardening, book and music ideas, and more, subscribe to my monthly digest, a Vine of Ideas. In it, I send a list of short links to stuff I think is worth checking out. Also, the latest on my new books and offers. Oh and you get a free ebook featuring a special tree!

  • Personal

    My Daughter Has a Flu During Covid-19

    Teen Bedroom, A Mom's Diary During Covid-19: My Daughter Has a Flu, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2020/03/15/covid-19-daughter-has-a-flu/ #Covid-19 #coronavirus #Seattle #Washingtonstate #quarantine #outbreak #mom #diary #momlife #dealingwithcovid #home
    Friday: Day 2

    So just as we were coping with my kids’ cancelled band trip to Ireland, my daughter started feeling unwell. A few days earlier, she’d gone for a walk with a friend who’d recently recovered from a flu. Also, she was home because her high school had just recently closed for the day. A staff member had tested positive for Covid-19. While the staff member wasn’t named, my daughter suspected it might have been her teacher, who’d been out sick since the previous Thursday, the same number of days the staff member had been out.

    Exposure Can Be Anywhere

    So right there, she had two close contacts with people who may have had corona virus. Her friend hadn’t been tested because tests were unattainable at the time. At first, I didn’t worry too much about her feeling sick. She often is the first in our family to catch a cold and often has sinus stuffiness. But when she mentioned she’d had the chills the previous day and asked if I thought she had a fever, a bell rang in my head. Could the corona virus really be in our family? All five of us had felt fine these last few weeks.

    I got the thermometer and we checked. Her temperature was 100.5.

    We took the temp three times since we hadn’t used the family thermometer for a while. It came up 100.4 and 100.5. In a reassuring mom voice (even though inside I felt worried), I encouraged her to go upstairs and try to sleep. She hadn’t slept well during the last two nights. She’d been upset about her band trip being cancelled. We’d have to just make sure she rested and ate well, I told her.

    For Young People, It Can Be a Case of the Common Flu

    While I didn’t immediately panic, I did go straight to my laptop and check the fever temperature for Covid-19. It’s 100.5 to 102. (And I’m sure, higher.) She was right at the low end. And she’s young. Kids recover from COVID-19 fairly quickly. I was confident that my child would be fine but I didn’t want her to pass on the virus to anyone more at risk. Her dad and I are middle-aged Gen Xers. We’re in good health, but we, as well as the kids, could become carriers. Needless to say, I immediately cleaned all of the doorknobs and counters with bleachy cleaner (no more natural stuff now) and urged my daughter to wash her hands often.

    How Do You Know?

    Ultimately, we didn’t even know if she had Covid-19. She could have caught some other more regular flu. All five of us get flu shots every year and, outside of a rare cold, are seldom ill. So how would I know if there’s any need to take extra precautions? I didn’t. I was relying on her body to simply fight off whatever was going on inside.

    That night, she didn’t sleep well — again. The next morning, her fever rose and her condition worsened. I’ll right about that worrisome day in my next post.

    Photo by Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash


    If you’d like more information on the Covid-19 illness, visit the Washington State Department of Health page here.

    If you’d like stories of inspiration, tips on gardening, book and music ideas, and more, subscribe to my monthly digest, a Vine of Ideas. In it, I send a list of short links to stuff I think is worth checking out. Also, the latest on my new books and offers. Oh and you get a free ebook featuring a special tree!