Pandemic Journal #2 – Earth Day

Earth Day – April 22, 2020 (entry written in paper journal @ 7:00 am)

“Victory Gardens showcase patriotism in its truest sense, with each of us taking personal responsibility for doing our individual part to create a healthy, fair and affordable food system.”
-Rose Hayden-Smith

Morning coffee in a quiet house. Just the occasional snore or grumble of a sleeping dog and the gentle rushhhhh of the aquarium.

Sleepy Apollo


I fight the temptation of going back to sleep after my husband leaves for work. It’s easy to fall into lazy patterns and waste the day. I am sure those who are “sheltering in place” share my struggle. Life is really thrown off balance without the regular routine of physically going to work. However, this is a reality that teachers face every year summer break arrives.

While I have gotten out of the habit, I used to always start my mornings with journal writing. The benefit of writing in the morning is it clears one’s mind, helps set the tone for the day, and charts progress from day-to-day. It feels great to begin the journaling journey again.

I’ve been spotting posts about Victory Gardens more frequently. Victory Gardens were encouraged during WWII as a way to help Americans supplement food rations and give families more fruit and vegetables in their diet. The practice of planting a Victory Garden was also used to increase morale.

I can understand the importance of wanting to feel “in control” when so many aspects of life feel just the opposite right now. Planting a garden gives one a tangible goal to focus on and gives hope for the future.

My family tries to grow as much of our own food as possible. That is one of the cornerstones of the lifestyle that my husband and I are trying to embrace. We can and freeze the majority of the vegetables that we eat throughout the year and we raise our own pigs and meat birds (chickens). We also have hens that keep us entertained and provide us with eggs all year long. These sweet girls and our two Roosters, Romeo and Odysseus, are friends not food. We lost Shakespeare, our alpha male rooster last week to old age. He lived a great life on our homestead and we will miss his soulful strut immensely.

We will miss you, Shakespeare!

While I have never been a morning person, our homestead has created a morning person out of me. Why would I want to miss views like this?!

While my husband and I share a connection on wanting be as sustainable as possible when it comes to our food production, the yearning to garden goes back to my early years. My grandfather, the late Thomas Puskala, had an epic garden in Iron River, Michigan and many of my childhood memories stem from his hours of labor. From his careful sifting of soil to remove rocks and his long standing feud with dandelions. Not to mention the non-traditional breakfast feasts he would prepare for my Aunt Christina which consisted of cucumbers and vinegar (Yes, for breakfast! 🙂 )

Grandpa Puskala in his garden. Thank you to my cousin Alicia for this photo.

To this day, the first crunchy cucumber out of the garden is heralded in my heart as a celebration of Grandpa.

I planted seeds in our house on 3/27 (tomatoes, broccoli, cucumbers, cabbage, squash, and kitchen herbs – basil, dill and cilantro (My step-son’s bearded dragon Harper LOVES cilantro). I also planted flowers: zinnia, marigolds, and cosmos).

We planted peas, beans, and greens (lettuce, kale, spinach) in our hoop house on 3/29.

We have a tiny house but we take advantage of every available window to start our seeds inside.

I spend all winter dreaming about garden tomatoes fresh off the vine. My husband isn’t a “fresh” tomato fan and even loves the chocolate cherry tomatoes we grow.

In April my husband and step-son collected sweet water and boiled down maple syrup from the trees on our property.

The syrup that John and Lukas bottle is like liquid gold.

My husband’s homemade waffles with fresh maple syrup and bacon that we raised ourselves.

The weather is still cold and lousy – in fact, we received over two feet of snow on April 12-13. Though it’s receding again and our duck pond is nearly open. The robins are dining with our ducks and chickens on fallen apples in our orchard and I get goosebumps when I hear the cranes in the distance – all sure signs that spring is finally here.

My ducks Dante and Lucky. You can see my husband’s maple syrup line in the background.

Romeo, one of our roosters.

Today my goals are simple. I will check in on my students and encourage them to write with me. Many are sharing their Pandemic Journals already. Their entries make me sad and smile at the same time. Most prominent in their posts is the face that they miss their friends – but they all sound hopeful.

So today, on Earth Day, I am going to embrace positivity. I am going to head outside and will finish one inside goal (I am cleaning off our upstairs landing to clear out “Office Space” for myself.

I still need to find a book to read and I will create a path for joy and growth in my life.

Yet, for the next half hour – another cup of coffee steeped in silence. Before the roosters wake up.

Here are a couple videos of our snow storm and one of my husband’s projects. We are almost ready for the roof trusses on our home addition. How exciting!

Please don’t be offended by the irony of him cutting down a tree (this video wasn’t recorded on earth day 😂). I promise we will replace this tree with several new ones!

Pandemic Journal #1: We Write to Remember

“I don’t ask for the sights in front of me to change, only the depth of my seeing.”
-Mary Oliver

I never imagined that our hoop house would be my new classroom. However, we’re living through some interesting times. I thought our food plot would be a unique place to record a video for my students to show them what my life is like outside of the classroom.

My husband said this is definitely my “Teacher Look” or “Teacher Lady” as he affectionately calls me.

I guess that yesterday’s distance learning translated to Bog boots since it is mud season in Michigan (plus, we have chickens – enough said). 🤣 Yet, it was a photo worthy moment because I even applied makeup and ran a brush through my hair.

The world is our classroom after all!

We have been out of school since March 13 due to the Covid-19 virus. It has been surreal to say the least. This week I started an on-line Pandemic Journal with my students. I wanted to model to them what their journals may look like so I am stepping outside my comfort zone and am creating videos in hopes I can make a connection with them.

This was my video today (I will type the journal entry below):

April 21, 2020

A reflection from my Facebook social media post on Thursday, April 16th at 3:51 pm

“The painful things seemed like knots on a beautiful necklace, necessary for keeping the beads in place.” ~ Anita Diamant

The above was the last prompt I gave my students before the world seemed to slowly turn upside down.

I’ve kept this quote in my collective memory and I have thought of my students often, but I had to remove myself emotionally from the reality of what was happening so it didn’t hit so hard. I was trying to hold things together like those knots on that beautiful necklace. I kept distant from my feelings and denied myself the opportunity to mourn. Guarded. We all mourn differently.

Today I took the drive and the awkward steps into my classroom. It was quiet but it still felt like home. It comforted the rawness around my heart.

My mailbox offerings left a lump in my throat and were the catalyst for warm tears. Finally the tears. Packages for my students – Outrageous Request Letters granted. We must wait until the “Shelter in Place” order is lifted.

I gathered my remaining plants. The geraniums I winter each year in my classroom. I grabbed several on our last day – not sure what the coming days would hold. When I returned today I didn’t expect any signs of life, but green still resided in a few of the pots. With some TLC a couple of them will recover.

I will take these packages and the green leaves as a sign of hope. A promise that better days are coming.

The anxious knots in my stomach are not in vain. They too are signs of life. Signs of compassion and a softness that makes a teacher a force to be reckoned with.

My colleagues and I are entering a new phase of our career – a part not fully developed or chartered. We are making maps. We are defining our new roles.

My empty journal is a ready for words. My students and I will guide each other.

We will write our stories –
so we,
and others,
can remember.

My weary classroom plants.

Outrageous Requests granted. I will have to post about this assignment – it’s my favorite!

Signs of life. The plant on the right is loving the TLC.

We still have a lot of snow on the ground!

Our hoop house is one of my favorite places to getaway and focus on growth!

Here is yesterday’s video:

Home Is a Verb



How do I quiet my breath
to match the stars –
and make my papery eye-lids
feel like rain?
The birches are dressed in starch
and my neighbor’s awkward
garden raises weeds and
a tangle of berries.

The sky whispered lies yesterday
screamed a false blue
aqua like a Scandinavian soup
bowl, rimmed in yellow.
The birds, feathered messengers
of fear

I write pages in my head,
my pen never touching down.

Last night I read somewhere,
“Read a thousand books
and your writing will flow like
a river.”
My heart feels like a lake,
Bottomless, metallic, and

Sometimes I hear voices in feathers.
Crows write words in the sky,
like graceful quills
that embroider the dome with
loopy cursive.
Elegant reminders of
my own clumsiness.
verbs that I cannot decipher
without beating wings.
They scream a dialect
I cannot remember.
I fumble for the searing syllables.

It is no use.

Once I kissed a boy until
I realized his mind was empty
I could never love him
He did not know enough
He could not describe how blue
the sky was and his insides did not
ache for the vibrant shade
of green the sky turns
after it rains.

I felt alone,
even when he clutched my hand.

Feverishly, I composed line-after-
line in my journal.
I was convinced I would rather
be alone.

My heart does not trust
where no trees grow.

September 27, 2012

Another snowshoeing jaunt that left me mesmerized with our own backyard. Is there anything ever as beautiful as the land you toil over and dream into being?

I guess our phone upgrade was well worth the extra monthly charge. These photos were captured at dark – charged by only a segment of moon. Technology is amazing!

I often ask my students to write a letter to their “younger self.” I write that letter in my head every day.

Be patient.

You will find your forest and your home.

All the words are there.

Trust that he knows them by heart.

Home is a verb –
A garden
A place where your soul rests and awakens
invents a new language.
A place of potential and possibility.

If you need proof, open your eyes.

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