We can't help it... outdoor adventure is in our blood, yet we're pretty much stuck at home. While it's confining and giving us "cabin fever", it's these times where we get creative. Here are some ideas, 8 things we can do, to make the best of it and keep our outdoor lifestyle alive and well.
1 - Handle Maintenance Backlogs
It's a great time to get your gear in shape. Wash those sleeping bags, waterproof your boots and gloves, thoroughly clean out water purification kits, check the condition of cooking gear, or straighten out bent tent stakes.
Gear repair is a topic that you can get help with from our friends at Backpacker Magazine:
2 - Get in a "Hiker Workout"
Grab your favorite backpack, load it with 30-50 lbs of weight, find something to step on. Then tune in to this online workout session with Jason Antin, coach and guide from Backpacker Magazine. You'll get a well-rounded, full-body workout. The workout is a video on Facebook Live (and hopefully has not been removed by the time you read this). Make sure to fast forward to 1:30 in video:
3 - Take an Online Adventure Course
If you have the money for it, make an investment to learn new skills in backpacking, hiking, climbing, skiing, even topics like gear repair, outdoor photography and how to be an outdoor writer.
4 - Camp at Home
It's a unique idea and maybe you thought of it already, but the KOA Blog offers some really creative ideas for the adventurer.
Camping right where you are can be a fun alternative to your usual trip. Whether you choose to pitch a tent in the living room or set up a makeshift campsite in your backyard, an at-home camping adventure could be just the thing that’s needed to lift your spirits and do something unique and memorable with your family—all while staying at home and safely out of harm’s way. All you really need is a bit of imagination and a sense of adventure!
5 - Plan Your Next Hike
Once we get the "all clear" on leaving our homes, be ready to load up the car and go! KOA offers great advice for preparing your next hike or adventure:
BUT if you just can't wait for that, camp right from home...like, tonight!
6 - Binge Watch YouTube Videos from REI
For those of us out here on the west coast, you know that REI (Recreational Equipment Inc.) is a go-to source for expert outdoor knowledge. Their YouTube channel is packed with free, short and easy-to-consume educational videos where you can learn new skills, choose and maintain gear, prep for your trips and have amazing adventures.
Here are a few we picked for you:
How to Clean Hiking Boots
How to Patch a Jacket
How to Clean a Bike's Drivetrain
How to Choose Gear for Cross-Country Skiing
How to Read a Topographic Map
How to Use a Compass
7 - Practice Building a Fire in Snow
If you're living where there's snow, this is a good challenge. Fire-building on snow takes more time, effort and skill than in dry conditions. "Fire Master" Will McGough (Backpacker Magazine) can teach you how:
8 - Stop and Smell the Vegetables
Last but not least, consider trying your hand at organic gardening. This one we'll expand on because it's our favorite of all. The outcome is greater in terms of benefits and health for you and your family.
For many, this one will start you on a new journey that has long term value. But it will be a commitment, because once you prepare that soil and plant those seeds, you'll have a new garden to take care of. This "new hobby" won't go away after the pandemic has finished interrupting our lives. From here on out, you'll need to tend to your garden, water it regularly, keep away the pests and harvest the crops. Are you ready for that? We hope so because you have a LOT to gain from doing so.
Benefits of Growing Your Own Veggies
Over the past decade or so, more and more people have switched to organic foods. Needless to say, they provide a good amount of health benefits. By growing your own vegetables and fruits, you're adding goodness and nutrition into your diet. You get to consume foods that have not been drenched in chemicals and pesticides.
It's Healthy - There's no denying the fact that organic gardening produces healthier vegetables. In fact, many diseases have been linked to foods produced with conventional gardening.
The vegetables and fruit grown in organic gardens contain more vitamins and minerals. They also have less toxins and harmful substances, as opposed to the chemical residue that is present in most store-bought vegetables and fruit.
It Saves Money - Initially, there will be some costs to set up a garden. Don't let this deter you. Once you're set up and growing crops, you'll find yourself saving money over and over in the long run.
It's Good for the Environment - Conventional gardening ruins soil in the long run, while organic gardening benefits both the crops and the soil.
Your Food Tastes Better - Not only will your veggies and fruit taste better than what you can buy in the store, they taste like what they're supposed to taste like—healthier and naturally full of vitamins.
It's Therapeutic - Your own garden can be an oasis of calmness during times of stress and anxiety. It even helps to overcome depression! There's just something about planting and growing your own crops that interrupts a person's worrying. You don't have to take our word for it. Do your own research and you'll find many studies that back this up.
It Keeps You Active - Let's face it... gardening is a physical activity. From planting to de-weeding to watering, and all the other tasks in between, you'll be getting plenty of activity. And it's not just for retired old folks!
Here's How to Get Started
Before you get going, you'll need to spend some money. But don't worry, even if you are on a tight budget, you can get started. In the long run, you'll be SAVING money. The thing is, if this is your first time, start small.
Here's what you'll need to get going:
Gardening Soil - Different from potting mix, you want gardening soil that is rich in nutrients is needed to grow luscious plants.
Soil pH Meter - You can purchase one of these and use it to test the acidity of the soil. Ideally, your soil should have a pH value that's somewhere in the middle of the scale. If it's too acidic, you may wish to use compost to neutralize the soil. Please be aware of the inaccuracy of some meters—read this short article from Mother Earth News.
Moisture Meter - Too much of anything is bad. Overwatering the soil can cause your plants to die. Underwatering is just as bad. Avoid these problems by using a soil moisture meter to see if your plants and soil are getting just the right amount of water. These are relatively inexpensive and will definitely improve your chances for success.
Compost - We recommend this because we prefer you DO NOT use fertilizers and chemicals. Keep things natural by avoiding artificial methods. Just use compost which provides nutrients to the soil and the plants.
Seeds, pots, starter mixes, heat mats - Depending on what types of vegetables, herbs or fruits you want to grow, you need seeds and starter mixes to ensure that the plants germinate successfully. If you're buying your supplies from Amazon, please check the reviews and see which products have the most positive ones. As an alternative, most nurseries and lawn/garden centers are open, so check in your local area for hours of operation.
Gardening Tools - Obviously you'll need gloves, a trowel and other tools. You may have these already, but if not, they are easy to get. We recommend aluminum so that they don't rust.
You should also use a watering can with a spout so you can control the outpour and water your crops evenly. Avoid using a water hose that may be too hard on the soil, especially when you've just planted seedlings.
If you do have to purchase new ones, check out these gardening tools on Amazon.
This 6-piece set with carrying case has the highest reviews on Amazon.
Row Covers / Netting - Don't underestimate the importance of this. When you first start an organic garden, you'll probably have a lot of seedlings. These frail little plants will need all the protection they can get. The row covers will protect them from the vagaries of the weather.
Use netting around your seedlings once they get stronger. This will prevent pests like rabbits, moles, etc. from feasting on these little plants.
These are just some of the basic things you'll need, not all are required to start. It depends on your budget and what tools you already have.
5 Easy Crops to Grow
If you're new to organic gardening, start out with crops that require less effort. There are many different types of vegetables and plants that will flourish without you constantly hovering over them. Growing these, when you are a beginner, will give you confidence and knowledge.
Once you've had success with a few "easy to grow" vegetables, then try your hand at the more challenging plants. It's always best to start out with the fail-proof plants.
Seeds can be purchased in variety packs on Amazon if you don't care to make a trip to your local nursery.
Tomatoes - This is one of the most satisfying plants to grow because it grows so fast. All you need to do is find a spot that gets about 6 to 7 hours of direct sunlight and plant the seedlings. Depending on the type of tomatoes you grow, you may need more space for the runners to spread and produce even more crops.
When planting the tomato seedlings, insert stakes or fencing as supports at the same time. This will prevent you from disturbing the soil and roots later on.
Water your tomato seedlings often and they'll grow up creeping around the supports until you see fresh juicy tomatoes.
Carrots - Carrots grow best in cool dry temperatures and they are hardy vegetables. Till the soil a little to aerate it. Then dig rows in your garden and plant the seeds about one to two inches apart from each other. The seeds should only be half an inch deep in the soil.
Then all you need to do is wait for the carrot plants to grow and when they get to about 6 inches high, you may harvest them.
Garlic - This is one of the easiest plants to grow and doesn't require much care. Because of its nature, it tends to keep pests away. So you won't have to worry about pest control.
Bean Sprouts - Another very easy vegetable to grow. In fact, it's so easy that many grade school children are shown how to grow it on patches of wet cotton wool!
Potatoes - The interesting thing about potatoes is that they can be grown in a big garbage can too, if you have enough soil in it. It's important to note that the soil should not be too compacted. Loose soil will allow the potatoes to grow easily.
All you need to do is dig rows in your garden and plant the seed potatoes. Then allow the shoots to grow about 10 inches and add more soil around the shoots to reinforce them.
Do not cover the leaves. Just expose them enough for the plants to keep growing. Keep repeating the process until it's time to harvest the full-grown potatoes.
Check out the abundance of organic vegetable seeds on Amazon. Pay attention to the shipping times, and try to order from a USA business.
Well, we hope that gives you a place to start and "keeps you out of the weeds" during the coronavirus pandemic. Do note that even though the above list of plants are easy to grow, the fundamentals of organic gardening still apply. You do need to ensure that your soil is fertile and gets some sunlight daily. Also make sure your plants get the amount of water they require. Some plants need more water, some less.
The more you know, the better prepared you'll be when it comes to growing produce at home. Read up on organic gardening or watch videos on YouTube to understand the process better. There is a wealth of knowledge online.
Go ahead, try your hand at it. Once you get the hang of it, you'll reap the rewards many times over.
Green "thumbs up" to all!