Lessons Learned from Sheltering at Home

lettuce plant overgrown

I’ve learned to appreciate you – and what you do. 

Some of you have been doing creative things on the computer with Zoom and other communicating programs. I love the music videos compiled from various performers operating from their home. That’s not what I’ve been doing.

In Tulare County, California, we have the second-worst COVID-19 statistics in the state. For that reason, unless I have to go out, I shelter at home. The weather has been perfect for gardening – 70 to 80 degrees. Ultra-violet light is supposed to be good for us, and here in the Golden State, we have plenty of sunshine.

The most important lesson I have learned this week is an appreciation for the people who process food. 

Yesterday, I chopped off two beautiful lettuce plants to make room for a summer crop of cantaloupe. If you think growing the food is work, then be prepared. Harvesting is much more work, and if you let it go, your crop and months of effort are wasted. 

Steps to Harvest Lettuce

First rinse

Warning! Don’t immediately take fresh lettuce or leafy plants in your house. You might be safe if you harvest a few leaves at a time but don’t count on it.

When you cut off lettuce be prepared for several unappealing things to happen. 

  • First, the bottom leaves are wilted and mushy. 
  • Secondly, bugs emerge from within the safety of the leafy bundle. Earwigs scurry out of the plant and carpet the soil in a mad dash to save themselves from sure destruction.
  • I immediately plopped the plants upside down into a bucket of water. A few roly-poly bugs surfaced during the first rinse.
  • Slugs leave their shells behind and burrel into the plant. 

So, rinse OUTSIDE! The lettuce soaked in a large pail of water for an hour or so. With the lettuce removed, you can see all the dirt that came off.

Second rinse

Inside, I stripped the leaves off the core and tossed the core, and the scummy leaves into a compost bucket. I added dish soap to this wash. The water came out mildly dirty compared to the water from the first rinse.

Third rinse

I thought this would be the end of the rinsing, but stubborn pieces of garden soil clung to the crevices of the curly lettuce. Bugs had left their brown marks on the center of the leaf. The compost bin grew, but I still had more lettuce than we could use in a month.

Fourth rinse and packaging

This last rinse came out clean. I let the lettuce drain and dry for about a half-hour, then packed the leaves into plastic bags with a paper towel to absorb any excess moisture. The towels help the leaves stay fresh for a long time. I’ve kept them for a month and the leaves came out crispy and sweet as though I had just picked them.

The discarded leaves went into a compost heap outside in the back of the garden. 

Harvesting and Processing Peas

It takes time to shell peas, but it’s an easy task. You need a knife to save your fingers, a clean bowl for the peas, and a compost bucket for the shells. This was the final harvest of peas which I gleaned off the bushes I pulled off the fence.

I put the peas into a Ziplock bag with a paper towel inside and stored them in the refrigerator. Google says that they last 3-5 days like this, but you can tell if they are going bad. I found that they last much longer.

Harvesting and Processing Strawberries

Strawberries must be picked twice daily, but not processed that often. If I don’t get them, the birds, roly-poly bugs, or slugs will. I store up the berries until I have enough to serve, no more than a day or two. After that, I process them simply by slicing them and adding sugar. My husband wants me to dry them in the oven, but that takes three hours so I haven’t tried it. 

Today I found this strange strawberry. Since almost every seed had sprouted, I planted it. We will see what happens.

Thanks to Food Processing Workers

So today I offer my thanks to all the workers who do the processing that goes into the food I normally buy from the grocery store in a nice clean package with everything included. 

And don’t even get me started on how much I respect those who run restaurants! I will never take any of you for granted ever! 

Next time tribute to farmers!

What have you learned during your time of sheltering at home? 

Author: Marsha

Hi, I'm Marsha Ingrao, author, blogger and retired teacher/consultant. Read more about me here. http://wp.me/P7tP3I-2

43 thoughts on “Lessons Learned from Sheltering at Home”

  1. Hi Marsha – this is a post I will show my hubs. He has a small veggie garden of his own and this will be helpful. Seriously helpful.
    I cannot recall when I started doing this – but I also soak berries from the store and am shocked at how dirty the water can be.
    Also, I grow parsley and sometimes I pour warm to hot water over some – and then eat it a little soft. Super packed with nutrients and good for kidneys. Now I am patiently waiting for the basil to grow – have small plants now – ((checks calendar)

    and your tributes are wonderful – hear and hear and thanks to the harvesters and restauranteurs — 🙂 (and cheers to bloggers like you)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I read somewhere that we eat a ton of dirt especially on strawberries. I love the parsley idea. Today I bought basil. I had tons of seeds saved from two years ago, but I can’t find them. I got parsley, too. It went crazy!!! Much more than I could use. That’s always my problem and with so many people gardening it’s hard to even give some of it away. Staying at home has been easier to use food.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi – well dirt can be fine – and we actually need it.
        Check out the book called The Dirt Cure – it is jam packed with good tips, written by a doctor and also a smart woman who learned how to listen to her body and heal with veggies and meat.

        anyhow, we don’t want to eat too much dirt though – right – and the snails can be deadly.
        The cases in Hawaii – and I think one of my dogs got something from a snail/slug –
        and plus, there can be other pathogens so oh my goodness I am loving the quadruple rinse…
        esp with organic gardening right?
        and you lucky duck with the parsley and other good harvest – nice….

        I have lots of mint – potted because it is so invasive – and I need to figure out to make my own tea…

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I planted mint that a friend gave me. It took over my little space so last year I dug it out and now I harvest it from the neighbor’s side of the fence. It’s a constant chore to keep it out but it smells so good. Maybe in ten or fifteen years she won’t have to mow her two acres. The mint will have taken over! Let me know when you figure out the tea thing. I use a little bit of mint in my Italian meatballs. Secret ingredient from Vince’s dad’s recipe.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Oh that is a good idea for the meatballs. Thanks for sharing the secret
            and mint is truly the most invasive herb I have ever seen – so I am not surprised to hear about your neighbor’s taking off – so I always keep mine potted.
            Some days I run a spring between my fingers for the oils and aroma (calming and uplifting) or I will bring in a long sprig with lavender and leave it in the house for a scent.
            I also chew on a piece of mint sometimes (good for digestion and more)
            and yes, I will let you know how the tea thing comes out –

            Liked by 1 person

          2. I chew on it quite a bit when I’m working in the garden. I like the lavender and mint air freshener idea. I’m going to try it in my laundry area. It could use a bit of sprucing up. We have tons of lavender.

            Liked by 1 person

          3. Oh Marcia – you are so kind. But I think I have enough with the three small potted plants I have!
            I hope you can find a place to donate it – maybe a local health food store ?
            If I was teaching art I would pay for you to ship me some – because one year – back in 2003 – omg! Time flies – but that year I worked at a school that had fields of wonderful herbs and I had students see little sachets and eye pillows that we stuffed with herbs – it was so fun
            But right now would not have much to do with it.
            Thanks so much Shia for the offer 💕😊

            Like

          4. You are so welcome, Yvette. I’m so busy planting summer crops in our new garden and harvesting strawberries and today-potatoes I don’t have time to pick and market stuff. I guess I need to find a balance!!! I love your project idea. I had my first and second grade class make aprons one year. Kids love to make things.

            Liked by 1 person

          5. Oh the aprons sound fun.
            And I wasn’t thinking to market it – just to donate it – but that could take time.
            And side note – one of lavender plants is not doing very well -(but I still have plenty – lol) but it is a tough herb for me to grow for some reason- I will share a pic later – have good night

            Liked by 1 person

          6. I didn’t really mean market in terms of making money, just giving it away. Everyone here has tons of herbs, vegetables, and fruits. CA’s Central Valley is where much of the nation’s food grows. In my case somewhat wildly out of control!

            Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Barbara. Hope you are well and thriving at home. It is certainly a bizarre phenomenon that everyone in the world is going through the same process. Never happened in my lifetime.

      Like

  2. Well done! I think a lot of the produce grown by newbie gardeners may be wasted as I see how many dozen tomato plants they are growing on their balcony! Or, the 25 foot row of lettuce they just planted across their back yard. In addition to good harvesting and storage practices, they’ll need to learn succession planting!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes. That is a hard lesson to learn and is partly determined by what is available in the nursery when you go to buy plants. That’s where seeds come into play.

      Like

  3. Great tips to read here, Marsha! You are right in the central valley breadbasket of California! Your produce looks amazing!! My yard is too small for veggies right now. We tried planting tomatoes one year and they didn’t flourish, and neither did zucchini! Can you imagine that? Our soil is rocky and acidic, and I think more so because of the redwoods I planted here years ago. Once we got two truckloads of organic dirt placed into a separate large planter, I was able to plant beautiful sunflowers and enjoy the show. Once we move north I imagine we’ll look into a greenhouse!

    Liked by 1 person

          1. I hadn’t thought of that. The plants are a bit like spiders aren’t they? I used to have a plant that sent out runners in a similar way. It was (commonly, I suppose) called a spider plant.

            Like

          2. I used to have one of those. They looked like little spiders. Very popular hanging indoor plant! My strawberries are starting to put out runners. A weird thing happened today when I picked berries. An entire plant came with the berry! It had two tiny roots and about 4-6 unripe berries in addition to the one beautiful ripe one.

            Liked by 1 person

  4. I love your garden! And interested in the hybrid blueberry. I have 2 bushes and they are really not thriving in my garden. I only get a handful of berries. It could be the soil, too, but the heat down here is almost as bad as in your neck of the woods. What I’ve learned during stay at home is that I’ve become a hermit and it isn’t really all that bad except for not being able to see my grandkids. I have unlimited projects inside and out and it’s peaceful, which is GOOD.

    Liked by 1 person

Your babbling is music to my ears. Please leave a comment!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.