I don’t intend to downplay the seriousness of the present situation nor am I arrogant nor ignorant enough to suggest this will not affect everyone, including ourselves. My partner and I have been laid off over 2 months early and we rely on this income to get us through the lean planting and prepping season where were busy working and buying supplies with little income. We will have to adapt – something we are familiar with. “We will get by, we will survive”: an anthem and lyric from my favourite band.
Rural dwellers, being more isolated, have an advantage right now and farmers are optimists – they have to be, as every year poses new and unforeseen challenges. Different hits and misses, but things always seem to work out in the long run. Just planting seeds, building soil or incubating eggs is a sign you believe in the positivity for the future. Theres no short term gain. It’s all for a benefit sometime down the road.
Homesteading, by definition, is literally staying and working from home, something all others are being asked to do, many out of their comfort zone. Many of the practises the general public are being asked to do are commonplace for us. Farmers can’t be germaphobes, they are constantly exposed to bacteria, both good and bad. They also understand that such exposure builds up their immune system, same goes for plants and livestock. At the same time most understand the importance of disinfecting propagation rooms, equipment, and keeping stables and coops clean to prevent an outbreak of pests and diseases, which can get out of hand quickly. Once a problem is identified, it’s important to act quickly as the situation increases exponentially. Organic farmers will resist the temptation to completely nuke everything with chemicals – the idea is to regain a sense of balance, so nature can do the rest. You never get it all, just slow down and manage the overwhelming progression. Patience and persistence are the key. Sound familiar?
Quarantine is another age-old practice. It’s always a good idea to separate sick plants and animals for the greater good of the rest. The difficult decision to cull is something we all have to deal with. As Darwin observed long ago, it’s the survival of the fittest that lets the strongest genetics evolve. Sometimes you you have to let something special go, so others can live.
Organic farmers know that Mother Nature has a tendency to spank those who challenge her natural balance. The worst outbreaks occur in monocultures and factory farming. Mad cow disease, avian flus, E coli, listeria and now Covid 19 (apparently originating a dirty Asian market) are all examples of problems from an overcrowded, unsanitary, misguided system and unnatural methods.
Stocking up, preserving and being prepared are the cornerstones of homesteading. Pantries and freezers are like safety deposit boxes. It’s a currency that rarely devalues and becomes more valuable when times are tough. It’s something that is an ongoing process, not something you rush and do over a weekend. Toilet paper however, is not a survival item. Any naturalist knows water, newspaper, moss or leaves will do in a pinch, pardon the pun.
I’ve sometimes questioned my decision to live off the land, knowing if I did the math it would be much more economical to use my skillset and work as a landscape designer or operate heavy machinery, and buy food with a regular salary from regular sources. These options however didn’t offer to feed my soul. Working outside with nature is my happy place. In times like these, I have no regrets.
So it’s business as usual on the farm, with the always-lots-to-do list to keep busy. We will easily and naturally do our civic duty to self isolate, keep our social (media) distance, practice hygiene, stay active outdoors, and offer and accept help from the community. I just cleaned the chicken coop, I washed my hands thoroughly.