The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Social distance with a garden

Effects of social distancing
It was a tough call given that there is only one community-spread case in our state as of yesterday. But deeper reading suggests what we are seeing is only the tip of the iceberg. While I'm at very low risk from coronavirus, each person who contracts the disease spreads it to three other people and mortality rates skyrocket each decade for folks over 60. Between us, Mark and I could be responsible for a grandmother's death.

So we're going into social-distancing mode. We stocked up on a month's worth of non-perishables earlier in the week and voted early yesterday. The only reasons to leave home now are optional.

I'm keeping some of those optional outings. Hikes at the park seem very safe, playing in my garden safer yet. Letting the neighbor twins come down (with new, strict handwashing procedures they reluctantly agreed to comply with, plus new surface-cleaning protocols after they leave) seems like a worthwhile risk now that school is out and their worlds are smaller. I'll likely still go down the road to buy eggs from another neighbor, although we'll chat outdoors and keep our distance.

It feels a bit silly at this stage...but all of the experts I've heard in the last week explain that social distancing is most effective when it feels silly. If we wait until the ax looms, the health-care systems will be in danger of being overwhelmed. (Don't forget that 5+ day lag between getting sick and showing symptoms!)

Broccoli sets

So what am I telling you to do? All of the obvious stuff mentioned above...and maybe also hurry up planting your spring garden.

Don't know where to start? Take a look at your region on this soil-temperature map, then compare it to the minimum germination temperatures for crops here. Easy and fast crops at this time of year include lettuce, radishes, and most leafy greens.  These will be great for keeping the monotony of beans and rice at bay!

High-calorie crops that can be planted now --- in case your stored staples don't last the length of the outbreak --- include potatoes and carrots and peas. For us, now is also the time to start a lot of summer crops inside to jumpstart the frost-free date. Our broccoli sets are at the two-leaf stage and I'll be filling a flat with tomato, basil, and pepper seeds today.

I know that many of you can't simply hunker down in place. But if you can stay home, just think how much more fun it will be to social distance within a vibrant, food-filled garden.

And don't forget to wash your hands!

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Hi Anna,

It seems like a good time to publish a few page booklet about how to reliably grow edibles on your lawn.

warm regards to you both, John

Comment by John Fri Mar 13 14:24:39 2020
We are older and in a higher risk group, people over 40 are increasingly vulnerable as age rises. So we have been aware and worried for months now, mocked by some, but no longer. That is a great graph, illustrating how delay will help. Good to see younger people being protective of their older family members, not really seeing much of that in the social media.
Comment by Maggie Turner Fri Mar 13 16:09:03 2020

I always used to say that you never make a medical mistake when viewing the case thru the Retro-Spectoscope. Here I have the advantage of reading your post with another month's data at hand.

A couple notable pieces of data: In Italy's experience, 55% of CoViD deaths occurred in those over 80 y/0, and75% in those over 70-- almost all of whom had multiple co-existent medical problems. One might suggest that those pts had a high probability of not surviving the next year, even without CoV.

The handful of studies completed at this point suggest the rate of CoV exposure is 50% or more in the general public, making the over=all death rate miniscule.

In NYC, 3% of CoViD pts presenting to the hosp made their way to the ICU and required mechanical ventilation-- only 1 in 5 of them survived, ie- the over-all death rate would have been increased by <1% if no ventilators were available at all..

...Considering the as yet unknown amount of personal, corporate and national economic hardship the sheltering efforts will have caused, it looks like a more prudent course would have been to not curtail normal activities..There would be a certain number of casualties-- inevitable in any war.

What if Ike had decided not to invade Normandy in 1944, knowing there would be a 30% casualty rate? Weren't the ultimate benefits of the sacrifice worth it? I think ultimately more lives will prove to have been ruined by business closures than deaths prevented.

Oh, BTW- when you "flatten the curve" the areas under the graphs stay the equal,ie- total number of cases doesn't change, only their rate of occurrence over time. When epidemics are allowed o run their natural course, a bell shaped curve is seen because the population develops herd immunity. For our CoViD experience, the bell shaped response is due to avoidance of exposure: once things are "opened up," a second wave is bound to occur.

Have a nice day ;-)

Comment by doc Wed Apr 22 10:29:24 2020

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