Sunday, April 5, 2020

Life in Isolation, Report #2

We're now in week 2 of lockdown. In another few days, we should be able to see if the restrictions are making a strong difference in viral transmission. It's already been heartening to see that even with greatly increased testing, numbers of new cases are rising linearly rather than exponentially. 36,209 tests have been run to date; NZ is currently at 1039 cases, with only 1 death so far.

The low death rate is likely because the majority of NZ's cases are linked to overseas travel, and travelers tend to be younger and healthier. If the virus makes it into a more vulnerable demographic, the death rate can go up quite fast. If we're very lucky, the lockdown will have been put into effect early enough to prevent that from happening. But all we can do is wait and see. Every day at 1pm the Ministry of Health holds a live press conference discussing new cases. I don't watch every single day, but if I'm near a computer at 1pm, I do rush to go see. (Holding my breath, hoping for low numbers).

It's not always easy to adjust to life in level 4. This past week, the weather was absolutely gorgeous--warm, sunny, and calm. My son told me about a million times how much he wished we could swim in the lake. (We can't; no swimming or watersports allowed.) I gazed longingly at the local peaks, thinking of how perfect the weather is for hiking them. (Tramping isn't allowed either.) My husband likewise heaved many a sigh, grumbling that it's just not fair for the wind to stop NOW, why couldn't it be like this back when we were allowed to go boating?

Tantalizing autumn weather--look at that, not a cloud in the sky, nor any wind to blow you off the ridges!
He can't go swimming, but at least he can still skip stones
I realize we're still very fortunate, though. We know families with spouses stuck in different countries; and others who were halfway through moving, who're now living in campervans or sheds. We're doing just fine, we're in our own home, we're all healthy, and at least we can still walk and bike for exercise. And since my son's school moved their 2-week fall break forward, he's spared from schoolwork for the time being. (Right when my homeschool routine was working so well! Oh well, I'll put it back into practice soon enough. The school break ends on April 15th, and then it's back to work.)

Such a hard life. I mean, somebody's got to eat all the grapes from our greenhouse grapevine.
Breaking out the tried and true alternatives to screen time.
We did put the excellent weather to some good use. For ages now we've been working on staining our house. A very slow project, since it's hard work and involves a lot of ropes and ladders for the upper sections, and honestly when the weather is good we are all too quick to go hiking or biking or boating instead.

Ha, but not now. With no more excuses left, we've been tackling the sun-facing north wall of our home. (Even after almost 3 years living in the southern hemisphere, it still throws me on occasion that the north face has all the sun exposure, while the south face is shadowed and cold.) The north wall has a hell of a lot of pine weatherboard to stain, and the panels have been, well, weathered pretty badly by the ferocious sun. (There's not much ozone layer above NZ.) As my sore arms can attest, this means it takes huge amounts of stain to cover and seal the wood, urgh. The worst part is that when I finally get a section done and want to celebrate, I realize I'll have to do it alllllll over again for the second coat.

The North Face. May look a lot less impressive than Everest's, but man, if we ever finish getting multiple coats of stain onto all that wood, I will feel almost as much accomplishment as if I'd climbed some Himalayan peak.

This morning's work. 
Our fruit trees have been going to town, which is great but also a little bit sad because we can't share the fruit with neighbors and friends. (No food sharing allowed in lockdown!) I refuse to let the bounty go to waste, though. As I'm still new to everything about gardening, I spent ages slicing and freezing our lovely red peaches before I happened to stumble across a webpage that informed me stonefruit can be frozen whole. My God, why didn't anyone tell me? Soooo much easier to just wash 'em, dry 'em, and dump them in a freezer bag.

This is only the smallest selection of our vast number of peaches. They look grayish because they are "black boy" peaches, which are purple-gray on the exterior, bright red on the interior. I think "red peach" is a better name, so that's what I call 'em. 
Ready for freezing. The intense red is the natural color. The flavor is different than normal peaches, a lot more tart when fresh, but mellows into this rich, complex, super deliciousness when cooked. I don't like cooked peaches ordinarily, but I love these.
All the Kiwis do tons of canning and jam-making and preserving, but my husband can't eat sugary jams/preserves, my son doesn't like them, and it feels like a daunting amount of work, anyway. For now, I'm sticking to freezing and baking.

I made gluten-free red peach muffins! Very tasty. Sadly it turned out the kiddo does not like any type of cooked peach, even in muffins. Oh darn, guess I have to eat them all, to spare my husband from sugar.
If you're wondering how writing is going, well, I'm writing where and when I can. Much like the house staining, progress is slow, but even slow progress adds up in the end, I hope. It is definitely nice to have the mental escape from worrying over the virus and the long-term global consequences thereof. Writing requires so much concentration for me that it leaves no room for anything else. That is a blessing in stressful times, no question. May we all find such relief.

Speaking of absorbing escapes, I finished Sangu Mandanna's A House of Rage and Sorrow, and I'm delighted to say the further adventures and difficulties of her characters kept me just as entertained as A Spark of White Fire. This one is a darker book but no less engaging. I stayed up late after putting the kiddo to bed so I could devour it all in one go. I think the third novel comes out later this year; I've already got it pre-ordered.

In the meantime, I'm excited to dive into Weave the Lightning, by Corry L. Lee. Storm magic and a Russian-inspired world sound like exactly my jam. This is her debut novel, it has just released, and oh gosh, my heart goes out to her and every other author debuting in pandemic times. Getting the word out about your brand new book was hard enough before, but now? Eeeeek. Maybe it's not huge in the scheme of things, but all of the things we miss and lose due to this virus still matter. So hey, if you're looking for entertainment in your isolation, be sure and check out recent releases, especially debuts. They'll need extra help not to sink below the readership radar.   

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