Adjusting habits and lifestyles

Published 9:21 am Friday, August 21, 2020

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by Max Phelps

Yards to Paradise


How would your life be different if suddenly you had more time on your hands?

A good many of us found out that our favorite restaurants were not open, perhaps our garden center offered only curbside pickup and hundreds of thousands were out of work or doing it from home. The home improvement store ran out of many things. Good landscapers and many other contractors had more calls for estimates than they could respond to in a timely manner.

Enter the Covid-19 new world where changes and challenges have forever altered our lives, for better and for worse.

Early in the year, phone calls began rising in number. I am sure tweets and texts increased greatly too, even though I avoid them. Kids at home, parents at home, many stores closed—and many began finding time to do home improvements, or dreaming up projects, of planning for a “staycation” rather than a trip to the beach or a crowded amusement park or tourist trap.

“Normal” may forever be a thing of the past. So how are you adjusting, and how has gardening, landscaping and improvements to your little piece of paradise grown in importance?

Bricks and mortar businesses may have been ‘locked-down’ unless they were deemed “essential” by the powers that be, but it’s been a busy year for service providers, mail order companies and especially for the small hardware and ‘do-it’ centers as they benefitted from new consumer habits.

Idle hours gave way to a lot of home improvement projects. Lots of $1,200 “virus relief checks” got spent for new zero-turn lawn mowers or backyard buildings or some new landscaping.

As dentists, doctors, hairstylists, furniture stores and sit-down restaurants were going broke, the Amazons and the big box stores were doing well. Because spending didn’t really stop but the ways it occurred surely changed and quite abruptly.

People did their research online, then they called someone they thought might provide their needs, and usually they wanted the same “right now” performance they got from a Google search. The reality was most good providers of services became booked up for the summer in a manner of days or weeks. Many resorted to inexperienced help, or those unemployed looking for a new hustle. Some tried doing their own projects—and some found they had skills they had never used.

Enough of explaining about reactions to our new world.

How can you survive better as your situation has changed? Have you found you could shop local and do without gadgets from China or imported fruits and vegetables? Have you gotten to know your neighbors? How about the ones at the farmers markets or the community garden? Have you been online to order garden seeds, flowers or outdoor furnishings? Have you found you could eat better and healthier by cooking at home?

And have you made a plan for the new detached garage, circle driveway, patio, pool or koi pond? Perhaps you have put a new roof on the house, added insulation, upgraded a bathroom or kitchen. Time spent at home has probably gone up for the long haul, and we can probably find good in spending time improving our places, our families and our lives.

Maybe you tore out old overgrown shrubs that were in style when planted in the 1970’s and upgraded the plantings. No doubt some new shade trees have been planted in many neighborhoods, and gardening beds and fruiting trees have been added to many a landscape. And while some have bought new mowers, some have bought new lawns. Still other folks have torn up some yard for a garden, for a hedgerow, or maybe a privacy fence. Stone and brick walls and entryways have been projects inspired by lots of time at home. Security items have been on many minds as uncertainties about the future make us uneasy. Home security services have been in high demand lately.

Benefits of the new behaviors have included more time in the relaxing outdoors, immersed in chores or just taking more strolls. Many are harvesting tomatoes, blueberries, peppers from their new gardens, or from plants they have inserted between the shrubbery in their landscapes.

I’ve met one gentleman who is doing a pond for in his backyard. Others just had a simple little water feature added for the ambiance. A few have decided to turn their place into a food forest; apple or nut trees, currants and blueberries and strawberries planted among and under the trees. Pears, pawpaws, even persimmons and jujubes have been planted in yards that only grew maples or Bradford pears before.

Yes, things changed suddenly, and many of us are still in shock or trying to adjust to putting on a mask or else not being able to buy or sell. It has been therapeutic to help other folks find ways to utilize their yards and landscapes for pleasure, relaxation, food, security or just the mental uplift that comes from spending time in nature that is sorely needed after working in an office cubby hole or driving in rush hour traffic.

Though I could decry how doctors at the center for disease control were consulted, and economists and experts in other fields were not asked for advice on the consequences of weeks or months of lock-downs, really all I or anyone else can do is try and make lemonade from the lemons and use our time and our finances wisely.

And give thought to the years ahead. Hoping for the best, yet making decisions to preserve our dreams, including our homes, in case things get worse.

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