All posts by Laurie Graves

I write about nature, food, the environment, home, family, community, and people.

Some Small Comforts

Today I am going to take a break from writing about the coronavirus pandemic and focus on a few good things. How? Let me count the ways.

First things first: I started the morning with cinnamon toast made from homemade bread. Also, a mug of tea featuring one of my favorite dogs.

This year, March 19 is the first day of spring, the earliest in my memory. While in Maine rough winds might not exactly be shaking the darling buds of March, the snow is pretty much gone from our yard. Yesterday, Clif took down the Christmas lights, and he didn’t even have to clamber over a snowbank to do so. I swept the patio, removing piles of dead leaves and dirt. It might not be time to bring out the chairs and tables, but it sure is good to see a clean patio with just a little itty-bit of snow left. More like mid-April than mid-March.

Our library is closed because of a certain virus I promised not to write about. Has that deterred our intrepid adult-services librarian, Nick Perry, who leads the library’s book group and trivia night at Van der Brew? It has not. Nick has started a virtual book club and movie club.

Our first book will be Somerset Maugham’s The Moon and Sixpence. I Haven’t even started the book, but just from reading the description, my feminist alarm is already shrieking. Should be a good discussion.

The movie is going to be The Hours, which is based on the book by Michael Cunningham. Clif and I have already seen this movie and liked it very much. However, we saw it ten years ago when the movie first came out, and we will have to watch it again to refresh our memories.

Not content with these two nuggets of awesomeness, Nick has made a video of several movies that he likes and that are available on Kanopy, a library streaming service. Holy cats, Nick is good! His observations are right on the mark, and his delivery and pacing are pitch perfect. Nick is so good that he could be on NPR. Watch out Bob Mondello! But don’t take my word for it. You can see for yourself on this video.

 

If you are unable to get Kanopy through your library, many of the movies Nick recommended are available through other streaming sources.

Finally, today is Clif’s and my forty-third wedding anniversary. We will obviously be spending a very quiet one at home. Because I am a committed homebody, this is just fine with me. We have cake in the freezer, pizza, and rum for cocktails.

Tonight, we’ll settle down with one of Nick’s suggestions, Ernest & Celestine.

Small comforts in troubled times.

 

 

Waste Not, Want Not

Even before the coronavirus struck—when I could go to the grocery store without fear of contracting COVID-19—I was mindful about food waste. I tried very hard to use all the food we had before it went bad. However, if I’m going to be honest, I have to admit I was not always successful. (Remember what Yoda said about try.)

Mostly it was because I’m not very organized. Some people have a lazer-like focus when it comes to keeping track of what’s in the cupboard and the refrigerator. I am not one of those people. Sometimes food in containers would get pushed to the back of the refrigerator, and when I finally opened them, I would recoil in horror at what I saw. The last few slices of bread would get tucked behind the brand new loaf, and green grew the mold.

But a pandemic has a way of focusing the mind, and now I am absolutely focused on every bit of food that is in the cupboard and refrigerator.  I want to put off going to the grocery store for as long as possible, and I don’t want to waste any of the precious food we have.

This picture tells the story of my old ways.

I bought these rosemary crackers last summer. The fresh date is August 2019, and they were 50% off. I had never had Carr’s rosemary crackers, but I have had other Carr’s crackers and have liked them a lot.  I also like the taste of rosemary. Because the crackers were on sale, I bought several boxes, probably not a wise thing to do if you have never tasted a particular kind of cracker.

I’m sure you can see where this is going. These are probably my least favorite of Carr’s crackers. I don’t hate them, but I certainly don’t love them either. We did go through two boxes, but the box above languished in the back of our closet pantry.

Until last week. When I was going through our food, I found the box and put it in the front of our food cupboard. Yesterday I had some of the crackers with some leftover cheese.

Believe it or not, the crackers are still crisp and are not stale at all. If they had been stale, I would have used a trick I learned from Clif’s mother, who grew up during the Great Depression: Put the crackers on a cookie sheet and bake them at 350° until they are crisp again.

I will be having the crackers again today for my lunch, and even though I’m still not wild about them, I will repeat the process until they are gone.

I am truly sorry that it took a pandemic to make me more mindful about wasting food, and I hope it’s a lesson I don’t forget when this terrible time has passed.

Coronavirus News from Maine

From centralmaine.com:

The Legislature approved a supplemental budget package worth about $76 million Tuesday, with funding earmarked to help the state respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

The package includes funding for the Maine Centers for Disease Control to beef up its workforce, increased rate reimbursements for those working in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, additional funding for adult education programs and job training, and another $38 million for the state’s public schools.

And perhaps most important:

The bill also expands eligibility for unemployment benefits for workers impacted by the virus, while also eliminating the one-week waiting period for benefits to start.

From Maine CDC:

Maine’s number of cases of the coronavirus: 43

From NBC:

Gov. Janet Mills issued an Executive Order Wednesday mandating a statewide ban on dine-in service at restaurants and bars, as well as a ban on gatherings of 10 or more people effective Wednesday at 6 p.m.

 

 

 

From Our Small Corner in Maine

Normally, I publish three posts a week, with one of them being a photo for wordless Wednesday. But these are not normal times, and for a while, at least, I will be publishing more posts than usual. This will help me make sense of things in my small corner of the world and leave some kind of record of what we did and what we thought. It won’t be complete, of course. No one record ever is. But it will be my contribution to these extraordinary times.

As of this date—March 17, 2020—President Trump is finally taking the novel coronavirus seriously. It took him a very long time to figure out that he couldn’t bully the virus into submission. The virus doesn’t give a hoot about President Trump. It will go where it can and infect the powerful as well as the weak. Now, let us hope that President Trump actually does something useful. There’s talk of a stimulus package, and I’m praying that some of the money will go to people who really need it as opposed to all the usual rich suspects.

Maine is fortunate to have a strong, smart woman—Janet Mills—for governor. Today, according to NBC News, she “has requested that the Small Business Administration help Maine small businesses get supportive loans to overcome the loss of revenue during the COVID-19 concern….Additionally, Mills sent emergency legislation that would temporarily extend eligibility to unemployment to workers that have been impacted by the coronavirus outbreak.”

In Maine, as of today, thirty-two people have tested positive for Covid-19, and three are in the hospital. So far no reports of death, and may it stay that way.

Our children are well. (Picture me knocking furiously on wood.) Dee, who lives in New York City, is working from home and can do so indefinitely. Shannon and Mike, who live in Asheville, North Carolina. Tomorrow, Shannon will begin working from home, and Mike will, too, unless he is considered a mandatory employee.

Clif and I have been staying safe and sound in our own snug home, and so far, at least, life isn’t really that different for us than it usually is. We are both introverts and homebodies. Even in normal circumstances, most of our time is spent at home. We cook almost every meal that we eat, so we can’t even say we miss going to restaurants. Although we are introverts, we do miss getting together with our friends, and I have been staying in touch electronically, through messages and phone calls.

While we are well supplied with food and toilet, I have found that there are some things I didn’t think of. For example, the Sunday newspaper to read and then to use as a starter for our wood furnace. As a result, we have been scrounging various sources of paper.

But yesterday I looked outside and saw a solution from nature—pine cones scattered throughout our backyard.

Out I went to gather them.

Clif used some pine cones this morning, and he said they worked really well. Because of the pine cones, Clif didn’t have to use nearly as much paper as he usually does to start the fire.

A moment of triumph for me. I spent a happy hour in the backyard in weather that was brisk but pleasant. The yard is mostly free from pine cones, and they have been put to good use.

What have you been doing in this time of the novel coronavirus?

 

A Time Like No Other

Well, here we all are in the midst of a pandemic. In my memory, it is a time like no other. Schools and theaters are silent. The shelves in grocery stores are empty. Our town’s library is closed. Even 9/11, a horrible event, wasn’t this bad. People could still go out, meet each other, live their everyday lives. Schools weren’t shut. The library remained open. The coronavirus, a tiny but potentially deadly enemy, has taken away normalcy.

When the coronavirus struck China, I took note. Right from the start, it seemed to me that this was not business as usual, equivalent to, say, a cold or to the seasonal influenza. This particular virus, a novel virus, was something our bodies had never encountered and was terribly contagious. In addition, the mortality rate was much higher than the seasonal influenza. The numbers are still in dispute, but the death rate from the novel coronavirus is anywhere between 1% and 3%, compared with 0.1% from the seasonal influenza.

Even worse, perhaps, was the novel coronavirus’s rate of infection. It just swept through people, overwhelming hospitals and the medical community in China, making a bad situation even more lethal. Nevertheless, for a while in January, it looked as though China just might be able to contain the novel coronavirus. But no. Our society is too mobile. People travel from here to there without a thought, and cheap airfare encourages them to do so. We consider it our God-given right to go where we want whenever we want. Perfect conditions for a pandemic.

When the coronavirus spread to other countries, I knew it was only a matter of time before it would come to the U.S. Our mobile society all but guaranteed it.

Several weeks ago when the shelves were full, I stocked up on groceries and that precious material—toilet paper. A week or so ago, Clif and I began practicing social distancing, an unfamiliar term before the novel coronavirus. I felt a little foolish to turn down invitations to go out with friends, but I figured better safe than sorry.

I don’t feel foolish anymore now that the novel coronavirus has come to the United States. As it spreads daily, the novel coronavirus is something to be taken seriously. In fact, Clif and I consider it our civic duty to stay the heck away from other people. It is true that eventually we might become infected. However, if we can help it, we  want to avoid being part of the first wave of sick folks that overwhelms the medical community. What’s happening in Italy right now is heartbreaking. They didn’t take the coronavirus seriously and now  there are too many sick people and not enough supplies. This means many doctors are having to make decisions about who lives and who dies. Elderly people are dying without anyone to hold their hand.

Over the next few weeks or months or however long we stay home because of the novel coronavirus, I will be writing about how it has affected various aspects of our lives. Along with staying the heck away from other people, I feel it is my duty as a writer to face this horrible pandemic and to record my experience from the hinterlands.

But I will also continue to record what is going on in our very own backyard as winter turns to spring and the flowers begin to bloom. That is part of dealing with the virus, too. The return of life is a great consolation.

So dear blogging friends, stay safe, be well. And we will try to do the same.

 

 

 

 

 

The Astonishing Case of the Disappearing Snow

A week has passed since Snow-Gauge Clif made his first appearance of the year, and what a long week it has been. The news about the coronavirus changes daily. As we watch the news,  we wait in apprehension, hoping that family and friends, near and far, stay safe and well.

But let us turn our attention back to Snow-Gauge Clif. The snow is melting at an astonishing clip. Here is Snow-Gauge Clif in the front yard.

And here he is in the backyard.

So much snow has melted that a couple of days ago, I did my yearly chore of picking up branches and sticks in the backyard. And, no, that little buddy didn’t help me.

Winter storms always blow sticks and branches down, and believe it or not, I actually enjoy this chore that tells me, “Spring is coming, spring is coming.”  Beside me, a beautiful ghost dog barks and leaps as I throw the sticks over the fence into the woods.

After cleaning the yard of sticks, I grabbed my wee camera and looked for signs of spring. I was not disappointed.

Somehow, this green looks even better this spring than it normally does.

 

 

 

 

March Giveaway: Two Free E-books from Our Very Own Hinterlands Press

Let’s face it: What with the coronavirus and politics, it has been a rough month. To help you stay home and out of harm’s way, for the next five days—starting on March 10 and ending March 14—we are offering two of our e-books free of charge from Amazon. The books are my YA fantasy novels, Maya and the Book of Everything and Library Lost.

Plucky fifteen-year-old Maya, who travels across the universe with a Book of Everything, might just take your mind off your earthly troubles. Enjoy, stay safe, and be well. Here is the link to the ebooks on Amazon.

Due to Amazon rules, we can offer this for only five days. So act now, and please share this with anyone who might be interested.