How Working in the Dirt and Other Ideas Can Help You Through This Crisis

This past Sunday I took a big whiff of compost as I used my hoe to work it into my spring garden bed. To me, the combination of homemade compost, moist leaves that were set out in the fall, and just-tilled dirt, well, it’s aromatherapy. The weekend was about weeding my yard, raking up the final leaves from autumn and doing anything but thinking about the virus. And work. And shutdowns. And money. My phone was left inside.

I’m not burying my head in the sand; I just needed a break.

Every year I always have big plans around my suburban small garden – minimally the goal is that I don’t have to go to the store to buy trucked-in veggies. This year, it would be great to have enough to share more with neighbors.

It will still be a couple of months here in Reno before I’ll even get some greens, as it’s been lightly snowing all week; and not until July when summer vegetables are ready to pick. There are a lot of factors involved, including if my two knucklehead dogs run across my beds chasing birds or squirrels out of the yard.

It felt good to have a plan, to take control, to do something other than look at my computer.

Like many of you, one week ago Monday, I woke up, got dressed and went to work. Honestly, I didn’t think we’d be closing the office and working remotely.

By Monday afternoon, we’d loaded whatever screens and computer hardware we needed, canceled weekly cleaning service, turned the heater off and started to use the words:

Social distancing.

Flattening the Curve.

Essential Business.

Shelter in Place.

Zoom Lunches.

Coffee in Cars.

Last week I was receiving press releases hourly to post on Tribal Gaming & Hospitality Magazine where I’m editor, about closures of Tribal and commercial casino properties. Our team met to discuss our messaging and how we can help our clients get through this. This meeting was our first Zoom and we all laughed as we looked like the opening screen from the Brady Bunch. We’re in the hospitality business. Hospitality is shutdown. Like nearly everyone in the country, in the world, this is going to be a tough road ahead.

Finally, on Friday, I left the house to do a quick errand at the office. On the way back, I decided to replenish my fresh vegetables. I did a drive-by of Trader Joe’s and there was a line out the door, so I went to another grocery store.

I wasn’t in for long and when I got back outside I realized I had been holding my breath (no, this is not a proven technique). I was not sure on etiquette as there were a lot of folks in crowded aisles. I felt stupid. So, I ended up leaving with broccoli, lettuce and without thinking, a family-sized bag of York Peppermint Patties (because that is what you really need during a crisis; too bad I didn’t think of wine). If we are shutting down non-essential businesses, and subsequently people are being laid off to try to contain the spread, then I want to do my part. So, going to the grocery store felt funky and selfish.

That visit to the store ended a week of weirdness.

Other weird stuff? We’re trying to sell an old minivan and a buyer wanted to trade in part for N95 masks. The construction firm my husband works for cannot provide bottled water for their still working crews, as there is no bottled water in town. I’m grateful that he is working; yet, I wonder.

Last night I couldn’t get to sleep – I was thinking what can I do to help our small business provides “essential” products moving forward; heck, how can I show that I’M STILL essential? A minute later, I was wondering what I should be doing to help my community; what am I missing? How can I be a leader at this time?

I didn’t come up with any brilliant answers, but I thought I’d try to come up with three ideas each week to keep myself challenged and future focused. This isn’t going to solve more serious financial issues – but it is something that we all can do to stay positive:

  1. Collaborate with your neighbors.
    Check in with your neighbors, especially the elderly. If you are going to venture out to the store or place an order for delivery, consider doing a group order. Are you making a big batch of beans or overbought some produce?
  2. Burpees.
    I remember watching an episode of Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe years ago. He said when he can’t go to the gym, or stuck in a hotel, he does burpees every day. He looked pretty damn good to me. Find a way to move; to release your stress; to avoid grazing. (I haven’t done them for months, and I just did 20 to practice what I preach).
  3. Work on your database.
    No matter what type of business you are in, most are cutting direct mail (and all expenses for that matter) until they have an all-clear to open up again. Email is the least expensive way to communicate and you may find that you’re missing email addresses or getting a lot of bounce backs. If you have team members that are being paid to be at home, have them pick up the phone, connect with your guests (with the right message), and start updating those missing or out of date addresses.

There are a lot of things that we cannot control. That’s life now and before this crisis. We can use this time to connect more with our communities; we can use this time to think out of the box. I do believe we will all come out of this stronger and smarter. I really do.

I’d love to hear how you are getting along on a personal level as well as how your businesses are being innovative. And if you want to talk squash bugs or greens, I’m here for that as well.



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One Response to How Working in the Dirt and Other Ideas Can Help You Through This Crisis

  1. Martin Nuedling says:

    Dear Chris,
    you are a great writer…. and your weird week was similar to ours in Germany, probably similar to the “stay at home” week of most people in Asia, Europe and US…. all locked-down, somehow surviving in their private prison at home. Wondering how your famous president will be able to allow people to go back at work on Easter… that is in 3 weeks?He must found the ultimative weapon against Corvid-19…..
    So we are fine and I do enjoy having more time with the families. So far we are arranging it well… I try to keep my working schedule… Getting up at 5:30 with my wife, starting work at 7:00 and ending at 18:00. However get some trouble/pain with my back….
    Aside of this… I am very sad that planned trip to NYC will most probably not happen this year… What a pity, not to meet my dear friends from Nevada…. 🙂
    All the best to you, your company and all colleagues, friends and family!
    Take care for now…
    Healthiest wishes

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