Now is the Time

Stuck at home? Here’s how to make so much more of it

Made for home
Author/lifestyle guru Ashley English lives in a cove in Candler (seen here in deep summer) with her husband and two young sons. Portrait by Nicole McConville

Though tomatoes are ripening on the vine, peaches can be purchased by the basketful, and the days are customarily long and languid, this summer is unlike any preceding it. In the days of COVID-19, most pools are closed, many hiking and camping areas are off limits to the public, and remaining physically distant is still the order of the day — and seemingly harder every day. 

A homebody like myself welcomes any opportunity to shelter in place. I realize, however, that not everyone relishes the idea, especially when doing so is potentially riddled with a host of other concerns: children home for the summer — and likely the fall — possible loss of work and income, and the inability to physically interact with others chief amongst them.

To that end, here’s a list of five ideas to consider for finding ways to still enjoy your summer and early fall — or at least to feel a concrete sense of accomplishment in a deeply confusing time.

1) Create an ephemerals board/shadow/display box. We have three burlap-covered wooden frames in our dining room upon which we pin seasonal, ephemeral botanical bits and bobs gleaned from our property. It’s a lovely, free homage to the wheel of the year.

2) Listen to gardening podcasts. Whether enjoyed in a quiet state or while engaged in another activity (such as cooking or walking), podcasts are the modern equivalent of long-form radio shows of yore. From unsolved murder mysteries to current events, if you’re interested in it, there’s likely a podcast about it. Personal favorites include Every Little Thing, Dolly Parton’s America, and [Western NC-based] Skillet.

3) Make a sourdough starter. A project that can be started now and enjoyed in perpetuity, sourdough starters may even be passed down generationally. All you need to get started are flour, water, air, and time. It’s truly as simple as that. 

4) Learn to water-bath can. Those looking to extend the season can’t do better than water-bath canning. Pickles, relishes, chutneys, jams, jellies, fruit butters, sauces, and so much more are delectable means of putting time and taste in a bottle, and creating a sustainable food source all year long. My series of “Slow Jams” classes offer live remote instruction (see end info). 

5) Plant a fall garden. Lettuces, spinach, arugula, radishes, fava beans, and other cool-weather-loving plants can now be sown. Even those with minimal or nonexistent yard space can put seeds and starts in pots on balconies and porches.

Ashley English is the author of five books in her “Homemade Living” Series, as well as A Year of Pies, Quench, Handmade Gatherings, A Year of Picnics, The Essential Book of Homesteading, and Southern From Scratch. She writes about her adventures in food, parenting, and homesteading at smallmeasure.com. Ashley will teach a series of virtual, weekly live canning classes, “Slow Jams,” through Saturday, Sept. 19, focusing on a different type of preserve every Saturday morning. Classes begin at 10am, will run around an hour long, and cost $20 each. More information and registration can be found here: www.eventbrite.com/o/ashley-english-30605247500.