Friday, March 13, 2020

Forage Walks and COVID-19

[Updated 3/29/20: Unless we are given the all-clear (unlikely), April walks are cancelled]

For the curious and concerned, here is how things are, and our current drill at home:

๐ŸŒท For anyone who has purchased tickets for a walk, credit will be offered for any future walk in more normal times. If this is a hardship for you, or if you were coming from out of town I will issue a refund.

๐Ÿงผ This is our preventive routine at home, and out and about (the Frenchman and I have always been slightly obsessive about common sense hygiene, but our normal measures have been ramped up):

๐Ÿคฒ Hands are sanitized if we are away from home, using a 70% ethyl alcohol gel. We do not touch our faces. We wash our hands the second we walk through the door.

๐Ÿ’ณ Anything store-purchased in containers or bags is first wiped down with sanitizing solution* on our landing - our new staging area before anything comes inside.  Our door handles and common surfaces are wiped down with the solution twice a day: taps, light switches, handles on anything that opens and shuts (including fridge, dishwasher and oven), credit cards, keys, and phones.

*1 tablespoon bleach to 16 fl oz/473 ml water in a spritz bottle.

⛑ Indoor surfaces touched by objects from the Outside are wiped down immediately with sanitizing solution. But we have that staging area.

๐Ÿค› There is no handshaking. Forget about hugging. And elbow bumps are better than fist bumps. But there is no emoji for an elbow bump. Yet. [Update: This seems quaint, now. That was before the six-foot rule.]

๐ŸŒฟ Foraged ingredients are gathered in clean places in clean bags by my clean hands. They are washed or cooked, as always.

For you at home? Pay attention to anything anyone has handled or touched at any point: Objects, delivered parcels, mail, money, door handles, shopping basket handles, so on. Shared surfaces are the enemy.

My personal feeling is that being outside* is the best antidote to stress. These are stressful times and stress is very harmful. Please do go out, walk, and find nature. It helps.

[* Poor South Africans are not allowed to exercise. This is very rough]

New York is blessed with big and small green spaces. Prospect Park and Central Park, of course, but Inwood Hill Park, Pelham Bay Park (the Bronx), Forest Park, Alley Pond Park (both in Queens), Mt Loretto Unique Area, and Conference House Park (the last two are on Staten Island) are my favorite wild refuges and places to stretch your legs.

Another unlikely therapy for stress is...the jigsaw puzzle! I discovered this quite by accident in Cape Town - this gorgeous $19.95 botanical illustration by Johannes Gessner cured a heart condition (serious arrhythmia) of three months that had befuddled cardiologists and cost thousands of dollars in testing (the tests revealed that I have a very strong heart!). It concentrates one's mind in uncertain times and blocks out the noise - real occupational therapy (my issue was probably embedded stress - family-related, triggered by an anniversary). I know, I'm off topic.

Here is Bug Slayer, from the the Elderberry chapter of Forage, Harvest, Feast. Timely. Three parts gin, 1 part each of elderberry cordial and fresh lime juice. Elderberry has antiviral properties.

If all goes as planned - and it may not - I will also be: In Inwood Hill Park for a Forest Revival on April 11th, at Green-Wood Cemetery for blossoms galore on April 18th, teaching at the New York Botanical Garden on April 19th, guiding an Earth Day Invasivore Walk on behalf of the Alley Pond Park Conservancy on April 22nd (just $10), leading a Between the Woods and Water walk at Pelham Bay on April 25th, and hosting an Edible Plant Blitz at Fort Tilden on May 16th. You can read more about the first and last two on my Forage Walks and Classes page.



  1. I like all your coronavirus prep and am doing much the same, I will use your idea and put wipes next to the front door for those handles and will wipe down shopping bags that I use often. Stay well.

    1. Just remember that to be effective any bag that has been touched by someone else or on another surface should be wiped as soon as you bring it in :/

  2. Two things: First, do you know that this is the earliest vernal equinox since 1896 (or, some such equally distant year)? Yes! of course you do!

    Second: how I wish I were close enough to walk with you. am having to "make do" with obsessively working in the garden - even tho it's still a bit early for most things. Even trimmed the neighbor's shrubs down our common boundary. (I did have permission.) When I say "trimmed" I actually mean renovation pruning. They have not been touched in the 20 years we have lived here and goodness knows how long before that and were in awful shape. Hope they are much improved next year. Never thought I would be thankful for weeding to need to be done! This, too, will pass. I just hope it will be soon (and not September!).

    1. I did NOT know that about the earliest vernal equinox. Thank you!

      Renovation pruning sounds therapeutic and fun. I love pruning. I am sure the shrubs thank you.

      Love to you and Milton, Win xx

  3. You can wipe everything down with isopropyl alcohol. Mild bleach solution works too. Very sage advice. Walks are completely fine unless you're symptomatic in which case you won't feel like going out.

  4. P.S. I meant sage advice in your post. Tiny problem:Smear jam on your palm. Pretend its the virus. Pick up purell bottle. Disinfect hands. Put Disinfected hands on the're back at having jam on your palm.

    Easy solution carry tissues or papertowel with you to initially touch the bottle with. Unlike jam the virus has zero capacity to bleed through.

    1. Indeed, that is a problem that annoys us and makes the whole procedure very tiresome - but we are aware. The jam analogy is a good one!

  5. COVID is serious and was preventable. The food myth continues to baffle me. Its a respiratory virus. Unless people are snorting unwashed fruits and vegetables, eating won't be harmful.

    1. The issue is if someone sick touches the fruits etc., with a coughed-on hand. Then you touch them. Then you touch your nose. And so on.

  6. Ah. Wear gloves while shopping. Seriously. Leather, wool. Itchy nose? Pull glove off with gloved hand. Scratch. Put glove back on. Make sure they're not the stretchy kind. Its annoying, you get used to it.

    Covid19 is here to stay. It's not going away over the summer. Italy and madrid are proof of that. Warmer temperatures are not affecting it.

    There is an idiotic myth circulating that one can get it from eating. Practicing personal space is not that hard.

  7. Marie. I'm angry at the ineptitude of various governments. It's my training. The public shouldn't have to "figure out how to protect themselves and good luck". Don't drive yourself crazy. Practice and it becomes second nature. If you have any questions ask.

  8. Seattle is usually wet and overcast this time of year. Against all odds we've had beautiful sunny days. Suffering from cabin fever (high risk group) we decided we were going out and went to a local garden center. It was more crowded then I was totally comfortable with, but everyone was being good and practicing social distancing. We replaced our snowball (viburnum opulus)which sadly was hacked to death by a inept gardener. We may have been a bit "reckless", but it was wonderful to be out in the sun with beautiful plants.


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