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New Skills in the Midst of a Pandemic

My life has changed in many ways since the start of the pandemic. Not all of them bad, some of them troubling.

Late in the year of 2019, rumours of a nasty bug emanated from the Oriental continent. Then, the mention of a quarantine in China; a small neighbourhood of a major city, then the whole city in an ever increasing area. Soon it was touted as an out of control epidemic, forcing some countries to close their borders to foreigners. Finally in February, the declaration of a pandemic, causing many governments to impose strict measures in controlling the spread of a new virus labeled COVID-19.

At first, it was no skin off my nose. We can ride this out. Then we started making our own masks, as the price on the market was soaring out of reach for so many people on fixed income. And the disinfectant craze which bourgeoned into a run for all things tissue paper, toilet paper and paper towels. Who would have guessed?

By the end of February we saw an increase in the price of many commodities and a drop on others. For example, gas prices dropped to the 70’s, but fresh produce doubled in price almost overnight. This prompted my wife and I into looking at growing some of our own. Tomatoes, bell peppers, and sunflowers would be part of our first effort, but then our growing season in the north is rather short. We tried in previous years with little to no success, so this year we invested in a small greenhouse to increase the possibility of success.

In the meantime, being cloistered did not sit well with me. At 69, I had very little choice, hearing constantly that the elderly were most at risk, so we stayed home a lot. Eventually, this caused me to descend into a mild depression, having little taste to continue the ongoing renovations I had started on the house. 

My only joy was to tend to my seeds, turning seedlings into plants, which finally flowered and were so successful that I had to give a number of my plants away in order to have the space to further the growth in my greenhouse. I ended up with 30 tomato plants, 30 broccoli and 30 pepper plants, which required a fair bit of research as they are a tropical type of plant. I even had to put a heater in the greenhouse to maintain an adequate temperature for them. I was concerned at the time that they may cost more to grow than to buy! However, BC Hydro was kind enough to give us a small break in our energy consumption bill. We had, after all, one of the rainiest, cloudiest, coolest, summers in recent memory. 

By this time, I was still not able to get into my renovation. Decision making was troublesome at times, causing some friction in our household of three. The depression was getting difficult to manage, so I doubled down on my efforts in gardening, as it was an escape from the cramped feeling inside the house.

By June, I was impressed with the progress of my greenhouse endeavour. I had to kick some of the plants outside as space had become a premium inside the small building. By the end of July I was counting many buds on my plants. These buds eventually gave fruit, and I ended up with 130 tomatoes, and just as many peppers were blooming in the greenhouse. Outside, the results were dismal at best but the broccoli was thriving in and out. I had so much produce on my hands that I had to give them away by the bagful to neighbours and friends.

Now that the gardening season is coming to a close, I am finding less and less excuse to stay out of the house and tend to my plants. They have begun to wither and die, and I worry that my mental health will do the same as the frost sets in. Now, I am looking into finding a new hobby as the pandemic wears on to keep the gloom at bay. Hopefully soon, the pandemic will fade into memory, but the skills gained will endure long into the future. 

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