Nobody wants to hear about COVID-19 any more. We adapted, it mutated. Apparently it isn’t ready to fade away.
The virus hasn’t affected my daily routine much. I am still in and out of mud boots all day long. I’m merely low-level staff to a stable population of homeless pets. It’s a full-time position: I am on call seven days a week, no holidays off, no sick days. I pretend I am retired until about 10:00am every morning when I suddenly wake up and hear the hens calling for me. The flock knows my schedule and is hopelessly flustered if I change it. They don’t know about COVID-19 and the days zip by, the same as always. Mostly the same, anyway.
The guinea pigs don’t miss their visitors much and the sheep were thrilled to inherit them. Aimless dog-walkers and meandering neighbors discovered Charlie & Hamish beyond the Little Free Library, and we have entertained a steady stream of fence-side guests since. I now serve saltines for visitors to feed the sheep, with a hand sanitizer chaser. It’s a lot of fun to watch the sheep run to the fence when friends call out to them! I’m proud to report that the neighbors had no idea we were here, because that’s the level of impact I want to have on the area. I never wanted my little sanctuary to become a roadside attraction or an attractive nuisance, but I love seeing little kids dragging reluctant grandparents over to see the big surprise! Meeting so many of my neighbors has been the biggest change around here.
You might think that constant stream of dog-walkers would frighten away the local wildlife. The deer, coyotes, and rabbits are everywhere. Now absent cars must have been the scary ones, because with everyone home from work and school, suburban sightings have increased. I have had rabbits in the yard before, but they are here all the time, now. Deer wander the streets, and my great blue heron is back! (In South America, capybaras are running amok through swanky neighborhoods, and we’re all jealous!) Maybe COVID-19 has been good for the local fauna.
It hasn’t been as good for the shopping. I miss hanging out at my feed store, but I have two fantastic volunteers (with a truck!) who shop for me now. I haven’t seen a baby chicken in several seasons, but I know what’s on the feed store shelves, and the yard, and what they stock. It has forced me to be more organized, and the feed store loves having my volunteers show up with a printed list. It’s the hay that is the problem. It’s awful stuff. Here in the Pacific Northwest we have glorious hay. I can even feed it to my guinea pigs, it’s so soft and clean. The best hay we get now is squishy and crinkly, like that fancy shredded paper they put in gift boxes. It smells vaguely of smoke, and the sheep love it. The horrible hay is also called “timothy” or “orchard grass” but it might as well be straw. Big thick stems, lots of seed heads (the only way you can tell one from the other), and the sheep won’t eat it. The last bale was mixed timothy and orchard grass, kind of a graminovore abomination. The sheep make funny nest-like holes in it with their noses as they dig through looking for the edible bits and then walk away to pull down another branch of my lilacs. Maybe they’ll finally get desperate enough to eat the grass in the front yard.
The cats don’t care that the toilet paper shelves are empty, but they do care about their cat food. Shortages are common now, but cat food? Isn’t it made out of leftover scraps from whatever? Half the time I try to order cat food it’s unavailable. When I see our brand in stock, I order some just on principle. That’s how I ended up with a creepy crawly mess. The food arrived and I set it aside for “a rainy day.” I never saw the dented cans. By the time I schlepped that box out to the barn, the cans had busted open. I have a decided aversion to cat food, but this was a couple bus stops past inedible. The unsavory characters it had attracted became live turtle food. The remaining smashed up cans are quarantined in back of the barn cupboard. I’ll use them someday, maybe for bait. The company sent a refund and suggested I donate the rest of the cans to a local rescue, lol! No way! Those cans are never riding in my car.
The good news is that the romaine has been fabulous this year. Even though shipping times are double (or more) than what they were pre-COVID-19, online shopping has been a time-saver for those of us who can plan ahead. It’s also an added health safety net, even for vaccinated people. I don’t get sick days, so I can’t get sick. All of my readers are vaccinated, but don’t forget to get your flu shot! The flu is no fun, either!