By John Pedler
Published: Wednesday, May 20, 2020
While we’ll all be happy if we never experience another pandemic, it’s amazing what we can learn when our world becomes smaller.
Who would have thought just a few months ago that our everyday language would include terms like ‘social distancing’, ‘self-isolation’ and ‘did you find any toilet paper?’ Suddenly, we’ve been made acutely aware how quickly our lifestyles can change.
No doubt this experience has affected everyone differently, but for most of us, it’s meant keeping busy while we’re housebound. While some of these pastimes will soon just be memories, a few of them could teach us some valuable lessons.
Here are some self-isolation activities we hope to continue well beyond the days of COVID-19.
Enjoying the fruits of your labour
Pick up some seeds or seedlings from your local garden store. With just a few of these, together with cuttings donated by rellies, my family and I set about turning our backyard’s wasteland into something we cared about. Sure, if you’re planning a mango orchard, it could take some time, plus a relocation to a tropical climate, but many vegetables and herbs can be grown in a matter of weeks.
Having your own veggie patch not only means reduced trips to the supermarket, it also puts you in complete control of fertiliser and pesticide application, so you know what you’re eating. We even got cracking on a compost tumbler, so we’re no longer dumping organic matter into the wheelie bin. The garden is, of course, an ongoing project, but it seems to be just the place for stress relief, exercise and fresh air.
There are plenty of websites for inspiration, like growveg.com.au/guides, showing which edible plants grow the quickest, and how they can be sown and nurtured. Those with limited space could have a potted herb garden flourishing in no time.
Exploring the backyard ecosystem
While you’re in the garden picking fresh broccoli and snow peas for tonight’s stir fry, take a look around at the incredible ecosystem that calls your backyard home. We were only a few weeks into self-isolation when we found that a rather hefty blue-tongue lizard had taken up residence beneath our back doorstep. Inspecting other nooks and crannies around the garden, we discovered a universe of alien-like creatures, all carrying out their important busywork, totally unaware of our human tribulations.
With just a lump of birdseed (available at most supermarkets) we managed to attract all sorts of birdlife, including rainbow lorikeets, rosellas and, of course, ubiquitous pigeons.
We then observed the pecking order. In an avian version of rock, paper, scissors, it seems that galahs beat lorikeets, lorikeets beat pigeons, and noisy miners scare the living daylights out of everything. When a squadron of these rowdy chaps swooped overhead, the birdseed fiesta was immediately abandoned amid a flurry of colourful wings and a whole lot of squawking.
When leading a backyard exploration with the kids, see how many different creatures they can identify, using the internet as a resource.
Spring cleaning – why wait till spring?
As days of housebound-ness turned into weeks, we thought we’d have a go at finding all those things that had mysteriously disappeared over the years. We now have a remarkably organised laundry cupboard, and my daughter’s room has emerged from a pile of clothing. The shed seems to have been the centre of our home’s most significant black hole, and a source of wondrous discovery – I have a hedge trimmer?
Move it or lose it
It doesn’t take much room to exercise (or to open the fridge and eat a slice of cake, but that’s another story). Somewhere around your home, or in the shed, there’s likely to be gym equipment that was bought with the best intentions. We found that we had a gym ball, small weights, an exercise bike, and the ability to bend other muscles apart from the Netflix thumb. With our newly found equipment, we decided to get to work. Nothing too strenuous, just a regular-ish routine, changing locations from indoors to outdoors, depending on the weather and time of day.
There are plenty of exercise videos online for inspiration, ranging from those suitable for Olympic preparation, through to the, ‘I wish I hadn’t eaten so much cake’ variety. Scooting around the SportsPower website, we found a range of ‘train at home’ videos, showing how to use basic gym equipment.
With solo outdoor exercise permitted, daily walks can reveal a whole postcode of interesting sights. Driving to and from home, it’s easy to miss all the wonders your neighbourhood has to offer. We got some home improvement inspiration, observed what a well-tended garden should look like, and had a vigorous discussion about whether pomegranates hanging over the fence are public property.
Keeping in touch
There was once a time when you needed to take out a small loan to make an international phone call. In fact, in the early 90s, a friend who regularly called his Scandinavian partner spent around $6000 in 3 months. Now, the marvels of modern technology mean we can FaceTime anyone, anywhere at any time, for the cost of internet connection.
Ironically, ease of communication may have made us a little blasé about keeping in touch with friends and relatives. But in a time of self-isolation, connecting with loved ones suddenly becomes much more important. Many of us have been in regular contact with relatives and overseas friends, just to make sure they’re okay. Hopefully we can find ways to keep these lines of communication open, well after we’ve been given the all-clear and daily life returns to normal.
One of the main things our household has learnt during the greatest social upheaval in a generation, is that when your world abruptly becomes so small, it’s amazing how much that small world has to offer.