Physical distancing and not seeing friends, family and co-workers can be difficult, but we sure are grateful for the safety and security of home. With Extension offices closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, staff members are sharing how their work has shifted and why they are grateful for home.
Extension Specialist, Community Volunteers | Project Manager, Nature Groupie
Now that you are working remotely, how are you continuing to help New Hampshire residents?
I'm working with the Nature Groupie team to share ways people can volunteer for nature even during this unusual time. It's been fun to see the creative solutions by our partners like a "Socially Distant BioBlitz" hosted by Distant Hill Gardens on April 5. People are going to record nature on their backyards using iNaturalist, a free app that helps catalogue nature. I just signed up! I think a lot more people may get interested in citizen science during this crisis as we crave ways to get outside (safely), connect with others (online) and make a difference.
We're still posting these types of events at the Nature Groupie website or through our free email newsletter. We're also working to adapt existing programs to support online learning or individual action. We're getting creative about the Garlic Mustard Challenge. Normally we would be promoting and organizing volunteer workdays to pull this spring-flowering invasive plant, but this year we'll be encouraging folks to pull in their own yards and neighborhoods, on their own. It's important in slowing the spread of this plant by removing it multiple years before it goes to seed (and multiplies like crazy). There are a lot of people out walking their dogs - if they can carry a trash bag and pull some garlic mustard while they're out, we can still help slow the spread of this plant this spring.
What are you currently reading or what reading do you recommend in your area of expertise for those distancing at home?
I've started a book loaned to me my colleague Jim Frohn called Eating Dirt: Deep Forests, Big Timber, and Life With the Tree Planting Tribe by Charlotte Gill. It's about the author's experiences planting trees in the Pacific Northwest. Hearing about the hard work of the forestry world in a woman's voice is very cool. It makes me want to get out in the dirt myself this spring!
Are you listening to any good podcasts?
I just listened to the This American Life episode called "The Show of Delights," about what makes something delightful. It made me happy. Another new favorite is Laughter Permitted with soccer great Julie Foudy. She interviews top women athletes with lots of humor but also life inspiration. I'm also shamelessly into Armchair Expert, which sends me down a rabbit hole into other podcasts by Adam Grant, Katie Couric and Sam Harris. Totally addicting.
Favorite at-home activity related to your area of expertise?
My family has been teasing me for years that I'm like the carpenter whose house always needs repairing. My job is to help others steward land and manage invasive plants while my own property is a veritable war zone of invasive plants. You name it, we've got it: multiflora rose, autumn olive, burning bush, garlic mustard, oriental bittersweet. It's embarrassing! We've done some management over the years, but with this stay-at-home situation, I'm hoping to get my whole family motivated to take action. I might document our progress through social media if I make any headway!
Favorite thing to do with your family at home?
Eating! Mostly, my family members are in our own spaces in the house. I have two kids trying to take college and high school courses from home so we're all kind of social distancing even within the house. We have been coming together around the dinner table at the end of the day and taking turns cooking. Also, I don't love cooking so I'm super grateful for the group effort.
Got a favorite meal to make?
Well, now that I've admitted I don't love to cook...When I do cook, I go to Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa recipes that are easy and reliably tasty. I made her grilled asparagus this week along with her recipe for grilled lemon chicken with peanut sauce. It was fun to grill something outside - our first time this spring.
Anything else to share?
I've been keeping busy knitting new pairs of Nature Groupie mittens for an upcoming fundraising project. But now I'm running out of yarn! If there are any knitters out there who want to make some for themselves, they can access the pattern on the Nature Groupie online store.