Recently, a friend made a comment that if 2020 was a beverage, it would be iced tea — made with water which had been used to boil hotdogs. Unorthodox as the comparison was, she’s not wrong.
Earlier this year, shortages of essential items such a toilet paper, bleach, disinfectant, and paper towels due to panic driven hoarding, were a terrible challenge. Grocery shelves were stripped of almost every non-perishable food item, making life more of a challenge than necessary. Then, when masks were unable to be purchased, there was a run on fabric, sizing, elastic and hair bands as enterprising individuals with sewing talents created cottage industries making and selling face coverings.
When spring arrived and work from home became the norm; gardens which had been ignored for years were suddenly tilled and planted. Science lessons in botany and biology for some children, a means to cope with a new and stressful lifestyle for adults. All the while, packets for lettuce mix, green beans, sweet corn, and carrots flew off the shelves and tomato plants and herbs would be sold almost as quickly as they were stocked.
As summer finally arrived and the heat proceeded to bake everything to a crisp, new shortages popped up; swimming pools were placed on back order, water balloons, and bike helmets vanished from inventory. Chicken coop kits sold in more quantities than ever as people decided they were going to be ensuring their egg supply by purchasing a half dozen chickens from the local feed stores.
A lot has happened in the past couple of months. Those cute chicks are maturing, the Cornish Rocks have reached their full and grotesque maturity and a lot of people are rethinking butchering critters they were dumb enough to name. Others are wondering what to do with the four roosters they have because they purchased straight run chicks. Some are going to be baffled because their young hens will be producing eggs which are small or have double yolks. Time will balance out everything, even as those backyard chicken tractors leave bald spots in the previously manicured yards because folks got tired of moving the coops every three days.
Many are also suddenly remembering why they hated gardening, or why anything more than two zucchini plants were too many, or they are realizing they are about to have crops needing to be consumed or preserved. My brother put in a garden this spring, it looks lush and is producing a fine crop of tomatoes with the explosive flavor you don’t find in the store. He invited mom and I to help ourselves to anything we want because he does not have time to deal with any of the produce. In short order, we picked enough beans to can 13 pints and half a dozen jars of beets. The zucchinis which are approximately the size of my thighs, were left on the vine. Mom and I both voiced our disgust when he shared his gardening secret was pure and simple neglect; he hasn’t had time to do anything since planting it.
Our plundering of his garden leads to the next shortage. Canning lids cannot be found anywhere. After visiting eight different stores, I managed to find a single box of large mouth jar rings, which I bought just because they had the lids with them. Amazon is selling boxes of lids for what could be described as obscene amounts. Pint jars are in short supply as well and there has been a healthy run on pressure canners and Ball’s Blue Book on Canning and Food Preservation.
I had suggested to some people they might want to contact the local extension office to purchase a copy of the 4-H Food Preservation I and II handbooks. They are full of useful information and safety tips for the beginner.
Regardless, we will figure out a way to work around the challenges this year presents and wait to see what the next pain in the butt shortage will be. In the meantime, I am just grateful we live too far out for zucchini to be showing up on our doorstep from overwhelmed gardeners.
Written and submitted by Sarah Roush for The Circleville Herald. The views of this column may not necessarily reflect that of the newspaper.