It wasn't supposed to turn out this way.
The New Year arrived. The new calendar on my office wall was already filled with Roller Derby games that I had agreed to officiate. I applied for tournaments, invitations were returned and more weekends were booked solid. It was supposed to be a very busy spring.
I had very few plans at all for the garden, frozen though with February frost and neglected after a miserable, cold and wet 2019 growing season. During the holidays I ramped up my activities on working on building a DIY modular synthesizer to make music and space noises with. Unexpectedly, a heavy metal band I played with which had dismissed me several years ago reformed and invited me to re-join.
Having now three hobbies to juggle along with work and trying to get into the gym a couple times a week, I was quite certain that I would have very little time to keep on top of the weeding necessary to maintain a 1,000 sq.ft. garden. Surely, the rows of garlic and shallots I sowed in the fall would only end up accompanied by a cover crop of some sort.
By the end of February, the Roller Derby season was fully underway and nobody in that community was factoring in the news of the new novel virus shutting down China. At work though, concerned supply chain disruption emails from electronics vendors were getting more frequent. The Democratic nominees for the presidential election were taking up all of the bandwidth on the news and on social media when, all of a sudden, the volume on the impending health crisis turned up and northern Italy went on full lockdown.
And then just like that, everything started to get cancelled.
In the short span of 72 hours during the second week in March, alarming notices from universities circulated informing students would not be returning from spring break that and classes would conclude on-line. Then the NCAA announced the collegiate basketball tournament would play to empty arenas, and hours later the NBA cancelled its entire offseason. Overnight, all major sports suspended activities. State and local officials began to publish that gatherings of 1,000 or more, or 250 or more, or in some locales, of 25 or more were to be discouraged and then prohibited. By the end of the week, tonight, on March 13, 2020, Illinois joined seven other states in suspending all public and private schools. A great hoarding of toilet paper commenced.
I never anticipated planning a garden for 2020 but now suddenly my schedule is disappearing quicker than hand sanitizer at Wal-Mart. I am sure that by the end of next week most if not all of my engagements will be cancelled through April, May or June. RollerCon itself, the queen of all Roller Derby events in July may even get cancelled. It is, if Italy is any indication, going to get much worse before it gets better. I am very likely going to have a lot of free time on my hands. Within the next few weeks if rational voices prevail I may be told to stay home from work.
And so, today I bought seed and plants for a year-zero disaster preparedness garden. The weather is, for the moment at least, cooperating. We had a mild and dry winter, although we had some good soaking rains last week. Just the right amount and the fields are not inland lakes like they were this time last year. The National Weather Service gives the Great Lakes region a 60% likelihood for warmer than average temperatures and an average chance of precipitation!
I already have that row of garlic and a row of shallots in the ground. The former are showing themselves and the latter...not so much. Even though the weather is mild and the ground is frost free it is still a couple of weeks away from sowing cool weather seed. All except for peas which I tilled and sowed into two long rows from my unending bag of Strike Sweet Peas, bought in 2012.
In two or three weeks, I'm going to till up a single row and sow in the contents from a bunch of little packets from the Hudson Valley Seed Company (whom I have never heard of) that a teammate gave me for Christmas. These include a "brilliant beet blend," a "radiant radish mix," an "all stars kale mix," and "rainbow chard." These are all companion crops to each other so I have a mind to mix them up with some spinach seed I have and sow them into a row or maybe two, depending on how far it stretches out.
From Territorial Seed Company I bought the majority of new seed I will use this year. A bunch of Walla Walla onion plants will arrive mid-April along with two pounds of All Blue seed potatoes. This year's summer squash picks are Yellowfin and Astia, chosen for their resistance to Powdery Mildew. I am going to attempt the three sisters planting again: a dent corn upon which a pole bean will climb and a winter squash growing between the stands. The corn is "Hooker's Sweet Indian" which allegedly came from the Washington region and will grind into blue cornmeal. The bean is "Bingo" a large seeded Italian variety with good disease resistance. The squash is "Havana," a butternut variety, again with good resistance to powdery mildew and yellow mosaic virus, which is transmitted by beetles. I plan on planting these, not in rows but clustered in stands far enough apart to get my butt in between.
I also bought a five pound bag of attractive red and white lima beans called Christmas. Many of these will go into making lunch, but I intend on saving enough for planting come late May. I also have a variety of older seed, like sunflowers that I might have room for here and there as well as tomato plants which my mother has already started.
So, if the economy takes longer than expected to recover and foodstuffs become temporarily scarce, I have a few staples that I can rely upon come harvest time to supplement any stores of canned goods I may get my hands upon through hoarding and looting and government handouts.
In the unlikely event that the downturn goes permanent and the lights go out for good, well, we had it coming to us. The bees and everything else wild on earth will get the opportunity to recover. Meanwhile, I will join the starving waves of humanity scattering into the hinterland to find food and shelter and to avoid the roving, marauding armed rabbles as they clash with entrenched militant prepper camps, rogue national guards units, and various local warlords.
When they pick through my belongings as they dress my carcass to make Middle Aged White Guy Stew in a 55 Gallon Drum, they might find in my possessions my little air tight packet of 55 different varieties of open pollenated vegetables and herbs, which if tended carefully and if seeds are saved for subsequent seasons, could help to start a garden in perpetuity for whatever wretches of humanity are doomed to carry on in the mess that we have left. But I won't despair, it will be for the best that it ends this way and always remember that Epstein didn't kill himself.
Wash your hands.