Lessons Learned from Sheltering at Home

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?