By Dulcy B. Hooper

From TV and radio ads to blog posts and conversations with friends, we hear it daily: “new normal.” Many of us wonder what this new normal will look like and how we’ll find it. Will it mirror life before COVID-19 or will it look drastically different? 

After a few months of quarantine, families and individuals are finding their “new normal” by modifying their business infrastructure and changing routines to stay safe while continuing to meet the needs of others. We spoke to some individuals about what their new normal has been, giving us a little glimpse into their life lately. 

Day Spring Farm | Photo By Doug Stroud Photography.

Sean and Jessie Baker’s Middleburg community-supported agriculture business (CSA) allows them to feed their family and provide “healing and nourishing food” to the community throughout the year. The couple and their seven children (an eighth is due in August) work as a team.

“Day to day, our lives aren’t too different,” said Jessie. “We don’t leave the farm much, anyway, because our work is here. But I do think this has made local food even more appreciated.”

In fact, Day Spring Farm has been “swamped with customers” since the outbreak of the coronavirus, with new customers now being added to a waiting list. “They know that they are safe with the systems we use here, how we harvest and process,” said Jessie. “We already have lots of systems in place to produce food in a clean and safe manner, but we did make some changes.”

One of those changes is a “you choose” system for meat and vegetables. Rather than customers touching the products they are choosing, there are signs made up so that it is “sort of like ordering at a deli.” According to Jessie, customers are still able to choose their items, but “We are doing the actual touching, so each customer doesn’t touch someone else’s food.” She adds that CSA customers receive a higher quality product and likewise expect a higher level of safety.

Another change: “We like to reuse egg cartons because they are as hard to find as toilet paper these days. But in order to be safe, we quarantine them for three weeks before reusing. I never expected to do that.”

Jessie said the most difficult change has been ordering and obtaining seeds. “There is a seed shortage for seasonal farms, so we have to plan even further in advance,” she said, “For instance, just to have broccoli on your plate in June takes us six months. We order the seeds in January, plant them in mid-February. We used to order our seeds one quarter at a time. Now, we have to look ahead at four quarters for specific varieties that we know do well here.”

Wingfield Farm | Photos by Richard Hooper 

“I’ve got some cows on the property, but they’re not mine,” said Margaret Gardner, “And a chicken coop, but no chickens.” What Gardner does have, and in spectacular abundance, are her beautifully landscaped, terraced gardens, including a topiary of the hunt which she designed and maintains herself.

“And let’s not forget the vegetable gardens,” she added. “I’m doing most of that myself, too. I just planted okra yesterday and now I’m spending hours sorting out the asparagus.”

In finding her new normal, Gardner said she is adjusting to the restrictions imposed by social distancing. “With the coronavirus, what choice do I have? I’m not going to go out if I don’t have to. I’m even avoiding the wig wash for now – that’s how serious I am about it.”

Gardner takes a five-mile walk most mornings, regardless of the weather, and plans to continue doing so “at least until the snakes come out.” Even after sustaining a broken hip last fall – ironically, while running from a snake! – Gardner is committed to her walks and can often be spotted on Snake Hill, Foxcroft or Pot House Road, “picking up everyone’s trash” along the way.

In addition to walking, gardening, reading, knitting, working on jigsaw puzzles and “keeping up with every single thing that comes along,” Gardner continues to work on refurbishing her collection of “rescued” antique rocking horses. 

And then there are the dogs (currently, ten, and like all dogs, in steady need of time and attention). “They are mostly rescues,” Gardner said, “down from 20, which is what I always used to have. I’m not rescuing any more, though, because I don’t want my dogs to outlive me.  Who would take care of them?” Gardner’s dogs are all seniors, and just keeping their “lotions and potions straight takes a lot of time.”

The “new normal” that has been the most difficult for Gardner to adjust to is the curtailment of her frequent trips to London.  Since breaking her hip, and now with the additional restrictions brought about by the coronavirus, Gardner thinks it will be a year before she sees her son.“I am a news freak,” she said. “I listen to it all, and it’s all pretty abnormal. For now, I am just staying put.” ML

This article first appeared in the June 2020 issue of Middleburg Life.