It’s funny. On some level, I’ve been preparing for this current situation for more than 20 years. And I’m finding that, not surprisingly, its one thing to be intellectually prepared for people hoarding toilet paper. It’s another to weather the emotional fall out when people around you are frightened and you can’t even give them a hug.

Other than the persistent feeling of angst, watching small businesses (many of which are also friends) suffer, a fear of running out of chocolate, and the hypochondria of “is that a tickle in my throat” (news flash, so far its not), we’re fine. Heck, there’s still hot and cold running water and electricity to surf the internet. We’re MORE than fine. And we’re doing our best to facilitate old fashioned neighbor to neighbor communication and assistance. Reaching out to those near us. Working with a local church and sign maker to put up a bulletin board for actual physical notes from neighbors in need.

That idea was actually suggested by Andy over at Welcome Table Farm, and its a good one.

Good morning friends and relations.
I have a question/request.
Who is willing to place a message board up in their neighborhood? Like a physical, paper and thumb tacks message board.
Our most vulnerable citizens are less likely to be online to ask for the help they may need.
It might be for some sugar, or some firewood, or for someone to pick up a prescription.
It’s just an idea, but it’s super simple, and could help some folks out of a jam.
Thanks all

– Andy Asmus, Welcome Table Farm

So yeah, all OK here. We have lamb babies popping out all over. There is one set of very small very dark twins that I’m completely in love with. The daffodils are blooming almost 2 weeks ahead of schedule. The apricot and plum and almonds likely got frozen while in full bloom, which means the fruit this year will be non-existant. Sigh. We’re hoping the apples, peach, pear, nectarine and cherries are fine, as they are not in bloom yet. Such is the yearly gamble of spring.

Not the best picture, but look, GREEN! Brassicas popping up.

I have onions, leeks, shallots, tomatoes, peppers, and a few greens for our own use planted, along with herbs and flowers. We use our walk in cooler as a germination room this time of year. High humidity. A few heat mats for warmth. And ta-da, its 75 degrees in there. The onions came up in 4 days. FOUR! Seeds, in general, need quite a bit more heat to germinate than they need to grow. Once up, they get moved to the greenhouse and the weather is watched closely to make sure it doesn’t get below freezing in there. A few heat mats can be pretty protective. Usually, by mid March, we’re mostly out of the woods. Our greenhouse is usually about 5 degrees warmer than the outside temperatures at night, and of course, much warmer than outside during the day. Not bad for a 10 x 12 structure with no heating system.

In many ways, I’m SO SO grateful that this virus hit the US in spring. Because farmers are gonna farm. We grow food. That’s what we do. And there’s no better time to feel like we can DO something about this mess, that we can help our community, than in the spring, when we’re planting like crazy.

Weeping Santa Rosa Plum, before the 24 degree night. We’re weeping a bit here too.

The trick, of course, is how do we get that food into people’s hands with no groups over 10, and 6′ social distancing rules. Farmers Markets all over the country are struggling to find a way through this. Technically, they are essentially a grocery store, and so are not subject to forced closures. And the public is ALL ABOUT local food right now (because which are you going to trust more right now, produce where you know the person who grew it and have some idea of how many hands have touched it, or produce from the grocery store, that’s traveled an average of 1,500 miles and was handled by many many MANY different people before reaching you)? Yeah, I want that local lettuce too. Farm business sites are calling it a pivot. Flexibility is the name of the game.

I belong to an online farmers business group, and one farmer, who attends a year round market, set up with just a blank table and a card reader. Food was in coolers. They did not take cash. They wiped everything down with disinfectant every 30 minutes and had signs stating as much. They wiped down the card reader every time someone used a chip reader rather than a no touch payment. They took stuff out of the coolers as customers requested it (so nothing was being unnecessarily touched or breathed on by the public). They had about 30% fewer customers, but about a 30% increase in sales from those who did come to stock up.

There IS a way to move forward. More spaced out vendors at farmers markets. Farm stands. CSA’s (community supported agriculture – where you buy a “share” of produce in the spring and get a set amount of produce once a week for the season – Welcome Table is taking memberships right now!). Delivery or direct pick-up (I’m looking at how to set my website for delivery and pick-up ordering right now). It’s a weird weird world right now. But farmers gonna farm. We’re gonna feed our communities. It’s what we DO. And we’re more important now than ever before.

Speaking of which, its probably not lost on most of you that I also make soap. And hand washing is suddenly really trendy right now. There are even videos showing you how to do it properly. My hero Alton Brown has one here (last few seconds is funny/gory/graphic slasher film, so hit pause if you don’t want to see that bit, but the rest is spot on, and much better than just singing happy birthday to yourself twice). He highly recommends using bar soap, which I, of course, whole-heartedly support.

If you are local and want to order soap, or anything else I make for pick-up or delivery, just order online (see online ordering tab at the top of the page). I’ll refund the shipping if its for pick-up (and can leave at the mailbox in a box – you don’t even have to see me), or for the same shipping fee, I’ll deliver to your house if you’re in Walla Walla.

And lastly, there has been HUGE fall out over hand sanitizers. Commercial hand sanitizer has gotten hard to come by in the stores (seriously, there’s a special circle of hell for people who are hoarding this stuff). DIY recipes showing up everywhere. Then counterpoints to the DIY recipes saying, “Nooooo, don’t use that, you’ll just be spreading germs around”. A recent NIH press release says that CoronaVirus can survive on surfaces for hours if not days. So, a few quick facts:

In order to disinfect your hands, or a surface, out of common inexpensive ingredients you probably already have on hand (cause we know that Lysol and Clorox wipes are now hard to come by) you need 60% (some sources says 70%) alcohol, or a diluted bleach solution.

To make a bleach solution, use 1/3 cup bleach per gallon of water or 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water. Note: this solution MUST be mixed fresh before each use. Chlorine is very volatile and will lose strength quickly in solution. Make it as you need it. Note that mixing essential oils with water and spraying them isn’t effective. Vinegar is also ineffective. I get it. I HATE strong cleaning solutions, and rarely disinfect anything in my personal life (products for sale to the public are a different story). But the time to stand on my crunchy granola natural cleaning principles is not now.

As for alcohol, we’re just putting rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle and spraying our hands when we don’t have access to a sink to wash. Note: this is VERY drying to hands, but better than the alternative. If you DO happen to have aloe vera GEL on hand, you can make your own hand sanitizer mix if you mix it at the correct ratio. Please don’t go adding essential oils (they won’t disperse in the solution and so will come out 100% as concentrated as they went in – that is not safe for direct skin contact – and they may not work to disinfect the surface anyway, no matter what DoTerra or Young Living tells you). Don’t decide to mix alcohol with an oil/butter instead (someone asked me if they could substitute aloe BUTTER – the answer is no, because they won’t stay mixed and you’d likely need some kind of preservative).

The math here goes like this. % of alcohol in the alcohol containing product multiplied by what % of total recipe that alcohol containing product makes up = % of actual pure alcohol in finished product. All calculations are by WEIGHT (though someone pointed out that the % alcohol on the bottle might be by volume – sigh).

So if you have a 70% rubbing alcohol and you are using it as 50% of the total mix you have .70 x .50 = .35 or a 35% final alcohol in the mix. Which IS NOT SAFE. A 91% rubbing alcohol used at 75% of the mix = .91 x .75 = .6825 or 65.25% final alcohol, which IS SAFE. See how that works?

A note on vodka and other drinking alcohols. Proof, as written on the bottle, is 2x the amount of alcohol in the bottle. So 80 proof (typical) is 40% alcohol. Which means that almost all drinking alcohols are not strong enough to disinfect your hands or other surfaces adequately (unless you happen to have some everclear on hand (which can go up to 190 proof). Besides, save it. I’m guessing most of us could use a drink at this point.

© Information is Beautiful. See link below.

Right now, we all need to do our part to flatten the curve. Additional resources: Really clear infographics on the virus from Information is Beautiful here. Spread of infection in the US, updated daily here. Walla Walla County Dept. of Community Health testing/cases here (as of now, no active cases, but a LOT of testing hasn’t come back yet).

Silver lining. More home cooking! Look for a series called Daily Dinner with chef Michael Symon using pantry staples (google it for updates – I can’t find a single clearing house for these that isn’t Facebook).

Stay home. Stay safe. Stay healthy. Take care of each other. And WASH YOUR HANDS!

When in doubt, hug on your dog!

© 2020 Miles Away Farm, were we’re miles away from knowing how to feel about all of this, but know that nature is a balm to the soul, and so are spending as much time outside as possible.