Hindsight is 2020, or so the old adage goes. For most of us, I believe we can agree that we’re grateful to see 2020 become hindsight. But let me stop for just a few moments and reflect on a year unlike any we’ve ever known, to see it from a homesteading perspective: let’s do the gardening year in review.
Let me be clear. I’m that lady that had never ordered seeds from a catalog or online. I’ve always been old school and picked up a couple paper sacks of bulk bean, corn, and beet seeds and a few sacks of onion sets and seed potatoes from our local hardware store, just like our folks have always done before us. I’d usually pick up a pack or two of crookneck squash, zucchini, and cucumber seeds while I was there. Typically this transaction would take place in April or very early May, just before our last frost date. Last year was different. By mid-January I had ordered all of my garden seeds online which I had never done before. I just had this strange instinctual urge that this year I needed to be better prepared, I needed to have everything settled well in advance. In addition to our typical garden seeds, I’d planned to start my own tomatoes and peppers, as well as many, many flowers. There was quite the variety. It was a happy day when the seeds arrived in our mailbox; I couldn’t wait for Spring to arrive in all of its glory.
Fast forward to March: I began to see the fulfillment of my instinct come to fruition. News of lockdowns and supply-chain issues sent people into pandemonium. Then it happened: the seeds were all gone. Folks who had never gardened a day in their lives and had taken the abundance and availability of food in this nation for granted, suddenly realized that they may need to supply some food for themselves or risk going hungry. Fear has a way of making people more resourceful doesn’t it? Boy, was I grateful I’d ordered and received all of my seeds ahead of time, for now there were none to be found.
For Christmas 2019, we’d invested in a basic greenhouse kit from a certain tool store that shall henceforth remain nameless. Just a few weeks before the first covid lockdown began in our state, we excitedly began construction on our little greenhouse, a 12’x16′ polycarbonate paneled, aluminum structure. Our hopes were high and dreams of cabbages, pumpkins, tomato plants and diverse sorts of flowers danced in our heads. We’d read enough into the project to know that we needed to add structural supports and lag it to the ground, so we did all of that as well. At last it was finished! With the addition of a few racking units, I began centralizing all of my seed starting gear and thus began the task of lovingly sowing hundreds of tiny vegetable and flower seeds. The time we spent in the greenhouse was a welcome reprieve, a bit of sunshine so to speak, as so much dread and uncertainty loomed in the world outside.
On our first Sunday of lockdown, we experienced a dry windstorm with gusts in excess of 60 mph. Surely our little greenhouse would be just fine. We’d secured it and added structural elements to ensure that it could withstand our blustery March weather. Our efforts were futile however. I watched in horror as the front doors buckled in, followed by several panels being blasted from the eastern gable and roof as the winds ripped through the compromised doorway creating a wind tunnel. Shimmering, slender panels drifted and danced one by one from the structure, across the barren fields, and out of sight. Seeing the impending doom, I raced outside to save my seedlings from the blast. Carrying as many seed trays at a time as we were able, Doug and I rushed between the rapidly deteriorating greenhouse and our garage, struggling to keep the trays upright in the fierce winds.
As we returned outside from transferring the last of the trays to safety, the entire frame buckled and collapsed in front of our eyes, revealing in a tangled mass of aluminum and 2x4s (some structural support…) As the final few panels skittered away from the wreckage, I fell to my knees in the cold damp grass and wept tears of exhaustion, disappointment, and utter disgust. All of our hard work, for naught. Our hopes and ambitions, dashed. If this was setting the precedent for the year to come, I was certain I wanted no part of it whatsoever.
Life on the homestead had to go on. After I’d had a good hearty cry and was over feeling sorry for myself, Doug helped me to my feet and he began dismantling the twisted and snarled remnants while I searched the swampy fields nearby to reclaim as many panels as I could manage to find. After trudging through cold, mucky, overgrown pasture field for what felt like miles, I’d recovered all but a few of the elusive polycarbonate pieces. The racking units that we’d set inside the greenhouse were not badly damaged, so those were transferred to our garage right away as we began to regroup and form our “plan B.”
Amazingly, most of the seedlings survived the ordeal. As discouraged and frustrated as we were, it taught us a lesson in resilience. When we chose this way of life, we knew full well it wouldn’t always be roses. Sometimes it takes great difficulty and loss for us to realize our true fortitude. And sometimes it just takes chasing plastic panels across a field in our waffle-stompers, resembling a deranged windswept cavewoman, to give us the gusto to pick up the pieces of our mistakes, dust ourselves off, and keep pressing on toward our dreams.
To be continued…