Do we know what an apocalypse feels like?

Several years ago, I started writing short essays about gardening in a time of climate crisis. Thinking of turning them into a book, I glibly named the series Apocalypse Farm. I knew in my bones that climate change would cause breaks in the food chain.
Weather and climate issues have always done so–droughts, floods, a year without a summer because of a volcanic eruption.

What I didn’t expect was a pandemic, and this one hit our family hard. But things are hard all over the world. Our family isn’t the only one with new widows and orphans. Across the globe, people are fleeing violence, burying loved ones, and facing empty shelves. Life has always been precarious, but it has taken a global event for too many of us to feel the pain and understand.

Things happen. It is up to each of us to do what we can to keep on keeping on, and to hold out a hand to those whose lot in life is harder than our own.

It is winter here, and my garden is on hold. The summer veered back and forth between too much rain and not enough. Some crops didn’t make much, but my friends and I soldiered on in the garden. We shared what we grew, and we canned and froze fruits and vegetables for the lean times. Maybe the helping hand they and I can offer is to teach others how to preserve food, cook for themselves, and use what’s available. Seems to me those would be valuable assets in a world gone awry.

First World Problems in Third World Times

Out here on Crow Farm, we were prepared for the pandemic, we just didn’t know what we were preparing for. We have chickens, although most are pets instead of laying hens. I have a garden, but I get more produce from the nearby farmers’ market than I do from my own labor. Under my piano, in metal tubs, are peas and beans and rice.

I didn’t realize how quickly I’d run out of fresh lettuce, you know, that kind that comes prewashed and wrapped in plastic. I started a flat of micro greens that will last a micro minute.  And I got out my sprouting jars and seeds, but even as I was measuring a mixture of mung bean, alfalfa, and broccoli seeds into my jar, I started wondering what would happen if the farm system broke down and I couldn’t get my sprouting seeds. How many acres would I need to plant for a seed crop? Which seed crop would be most productive? Who am I kidding?

As the first cases of COVID-19 came ashore on the west coast, I made a Costco run. I got the last twelve-pack of almond milk on the shelf. There was plenty of oat milk, but I have never tried oat milk, so I didn’t get any. I probably should have.

I didn’t buy raisins, a staple in my breakfast oatmeal, or the big box of Quaker Oats, because I had plenty to last me until my next follow-up appointment with my oncologist. Silly me! Two weeks later my oncologist and I agreed to postpone appointments for at least two months. I wonder if Costco has any raisins and oatmeal left.

Then there were those things I kept putting off. My phone and my laptop are out of date. I need my piano tuned. Oh, the piano isn’t too far off, but it may be by the time this pandemic plays out. Playing the piano keeps me sane.

I wasn’t nearly as prepared as I thought I was, but I have resources not everyone has. Most important, I have a new crop of seed that I ordered over the winter and a garden in which to plant my seed. I have enough beans and rice to last a few months. I still have peaches and applesauce canned last summer.

The question niggling at the back of my mind isn’t, “Where’s my next meal coming from?”  It is, “Will I be able to can peaches and green beans this summer?

I realize the privilege of my question and how small my problems are. So, what can I do to help those who don’t have the same privileges? What can I do to ease someone’s anxieties? Privilege isn’t worth much if you don’t share.