Three weeks.

Twenty-one days, just over 500 hours, which is just over 30,000 minutes.

That’s how long it’s been, and ticking, since our family started sheltering at home, the day our governor urged everyone to do so while this pandemic runs its course.


We have exactly as much of it as in any other three week period, looking at the numbers.

But when your options have narrowed it gives you a whole new perspective on time.

One day we were running normal errands, taking Baby Girl to the chiropractor then dropping her at AWANA at church. The next day Dear Husband and I have a two hour adventure at the grocery store to buy what should have taken us half that much time, seeing the panic and confusion on every face.

Our clothes and dishes stay washed up. I’ve been slowly doing some spring cleaning (not usually an annual thing at our house!). We’ve binge-watched all kinds of things. Our games have been getting used.

And there is still time to spare.

Baby Girl has been toying with the idea of growing a garden this year. I bring this up because I think it’s a great idea for lots of people to do.

I personally do not have a green thumb. I’ve told you that I love to dig in the dirt so it may be stained brown, but the only thing I grow well and consistently is weeds.

But thinking about it, many people have the time it takes over the next month to start some seeds and remember to water them. To set them in a sunny spot for the day and take them back in for cold nights. To transplant into bigger pots or rig up a mini-greenhouse for a small garden plot with old plastic and wire coat hangers, or whatever you have on hand.

We’re going to the store way less than normal, but I’m betting the seasonal area of our grocery would have a pretty full rack of seed packets, and with a little research we could have some cool weather vegetables out in the ground or pots by the time three more weeks have gone by.

The date I’m hearing to stay mostly at home is now June 1. And I want to give a plug for your friendly local greenhouse growers, because they have acres of plants already growing long before we started hearing about coronavirus.

Thirty-four years ago I was working at one. Growing up one of our family’s closest friends was the owner of a greenhouse and farm, and I spent a lot of time out there as a girl. Once I was married I quit my job as a maid at a hotel and was looking for something less full-time. My mom reminded me of the good times she’d had working at the greenhouse years before, so I called.

That year I spent January to April planting seedlings in flats, then worked the sales floor watering, fertilizing and restocking the plants through summer and fall, and then hefting Christmas trees before having a few weeks off.

The next planting season I ran the table, which involved punching holes in all the flats using a treadle-type machine invented by a man in my town. Then I’d send them down the middle of the planting table where eight women would take out a new flat and plant the seedlings, then put the full boxes onto carts. I got to move the carts around, find the next seedlings, get the picture stakes to put in the cups.

That year I got pregnant with Oldest Son, and after the planting season was done I retired.

It was probably my most fulfilling job ever.

Those plants didn’t make it into my ground, so I didn’t have to keep them alive all summer as they grew bigger. But I still love the day I go out to the greenhouse each spring and make the selections of what I want to grow.

Or at least try to grow.

And this year I intend to do the same.

It will be different than other years, most things are right now. I’ll go earlier in the season than normal to avoid being around many people. I’ll probably make one of my famous lists, and try to stick to it. I’ll need to be deliberate about what I really think we’ll be able to plant over the next few weeks and not spend more than necessary. And unlike other years I won’t be able to make multiple trips to pick up things I forgot.

In addition to vegetables and herbs I’ll also get some flowers for the family graves. Those will definitely wait until after May 15 around here to get planted in the ground, but I can keep them alive for a few weeks. I hope.

The hardest part of the whole thing will be staying six feet away from the people I’ve known and loved that still work there, my friend who took over for his dad as he got older. His family that was young and growing when I worked there so many years ago, now adults with their own kids helping in the family business.

There are lots of things that could be done with my time over the next month. Friends are making masks for health-care workers. Others are checking in with various people, making sure they’re okay and stocked up with supplies. Some are tackling projects like painting and other home improvements. I know someone who has ordered a keyboard and is planning to learn to play it over the next few weeks.

So this is just another idea, in case you don’t like any of the things you are hearing about, or have already done them all and need a new project.

Start with something easy, like leaf lettuce. Buy a packet of seeds, planting medium, an empty flat and cups. Plant them, water them gently and set them in a sunny window and in a couple of weeks you can put them out in the ground or a bigger pot or whatever you have to grow them in.

One of the many benefits of keeping even a small garden is the time you get to spend with your hands in the dirt, weeding and coddling and eventually harvesting.

And less time needed shopping for fresh produce in the stores.

You know, while I’m spring cleaning, I may even find some unusual containers to hold my plants.

That’ll save me time later, when I don’t have to take the containers to Goodwill.