It’s been about three days since all the closures started, and one day since Minnesota declared a state of emergency. Everyone in my household is already feeling cooped up and anxious about how we will spend the next days and weeks. And we’ve already told the kids they’re going to have limited time with friends for a while. So, if we’re going to spend less time in public, avoid movie theaters and restaurants, and otherwise practice hermit life, what can we do?
That is a question millions of people are asking, I’m sure. There don’t seem to be many good answers. One thing I know for sure: time in the outdoors is the original form of social distancing. You literally cannot catch a virus from someone who isn’t there. And even if accompanied by others, observing the 6-foot rule isn’t hard; in fact, it’s much harder to break it than observe it.
Off the top of my head, I can think of several things average folks can do to get outside in the coming weeks and months. Hopefully these things and others will help you get outside, find fresh air and exercise, and fight the urge to join the hordes- and their germs.
Cut Pussy Willows- I expect the pussy willow catkins to begin emerging here in southern Minnesota sometime in the next week or two. There might already be some now; I haven’t been looking too closely. If you’re not interested in them for yourself, perhaps you know somebody who would appreciate a bundle.
Go Ice Fishing- Until the ice is fully warm and rotting, there is still ice fishing to be done. Perch, panfish, eelpout, tullibee/whitefish, trout, and rough fish are still legal targets (and that list is not exhaustive). In fact, now can be a downright great time for perch and eelpout. Maybe this would be a good opportunity to add a new fish to your “life list.”
Try Maple Syruping- Everyone really should try it once. It’s a great way to connect with a food source and spend some time outside on a warm day. I don’t know a kid who doesn’t love syrup, so it’s a great way to involve them, too. All you need is one good-sized maple tree, and not necessarily a sugar maple. Many Minnesota yards have one or more Silver maples in them, which makes this activity more accessible than you might initially think. We tried it last year for the first time, and it won’t be our last.
Take A Walk In The Woods- It sounds simple enough, but this could take many forms. For instance, if you made a routine of walking in the same place several times over the next 6 or 8 weeks, you would be witness to the waking of the woods, observing all the incremental changes from dormancy to full green-up. If you go out on a still night, owls may be heard hooting this time of year. As the snow recedes from the landscape now, the timing is also excellent to find and collect antlers shed by deer. Use your imagination. The possibilities are endless, especially when you consider how different any two locations can be.
If you’re less inclined to get outside due to mobility or seasonal allergies (as I am at this time every year), there are still things you can do at home. Each of these could easily occupy half a day or more.
Make Jellies and Jams- Remember those bags of fruits you put down in the freezer last summer? Well, now would be a great time to make jellies, jams, and syrups. If by any chance you have chokecherries you don’t know what to do with, check out my recipe page from last February. Chokecherry lemonade remains one of my very best ideas ever…
Try New Fish and Game Recipes- I always have good intentions when it comes to cooking my fish and game, but let’s face it: the best recipes are not well suited for the average busy weeknight. It seems I need a good chunk of time on my hands in order to pull off the best dishes. Well, guess what? We have that time now! Need some new ideas? Hank Shaw’s recipes have never once let me down. A (short) list of my favorites would include Jaegerschnitzel, Steak Diane, Turkey Parmesan, Corned Venison, Venison Barbacoa, and General Tso’s Pheasant. Do yourself a favor and head over to Hank’s website (and sign up for his email list).
Smoke Those Fish- If you’re like me, you still have 5 or 10 tullibees in the freezer, waiting to get smoked in the next batch. I only have one left from the last batch, so this is good timing. Don’t have any Coregonus to smoke? How about other fish? Or birds? This is a great time to produce some stuff for the freezer. And considering how crazy the grocery store was today, it might come in handy to have some thaw-and-eat meals on hand.