Coping with Depression, Life

Skills That Are My Lifesavers In This Pandemic

The virus, SARS-COV-2, has left all of us feeling overwhelmed and anxious. We have so far, as of this writing, lost more than two hundred fellow Filipinos, and with more than five thousand who tested positive. Our country ranks first in southeast asia in terms of number of cases and fatalities.

Because the virus quickly spreads with more than one million people getting sick with COVID-19, the World Health Organization has classified it as pandemic early last month. Majority of the countries have closed its ports and terminals to incoming and outgoing flights. Medical experts and scientists are also now on a rush to discover the cure and develop the vaccine against the virus.

One of the measures that was put in place to stop the spread of the disease was city to countrywide total lockdowns otherwise known as community quarantines. The main objective of the lockdowns is to ensure that less people get sick so that our health care system does not collapse.

One month in community quarantine has given me the time to self-audit – a process where I list down problems/potential problems that my family will encounter; my resources and skills and my options. I was away from this blog that long in order to get things around the housed organized and to keep our mental health in check. To say that everything has normalized a bit is far from the truth. Right now, prepper as I am, I struggle to do our groceries to get fresh vegetables and meat because even public transportation was suspended and I don’t have a car. I wasn’t gonna sacrifice my kids’ and my nutritional needs by feeding us canned goods and instant food while I could help it.

So one of the skills that I tried to acquire while in quarantine was to learn how to do gardening, specifically, hydroponics gardening. I was actually inspired to do this by a friend and her hubby who have been urban gardening on their rooftop for a while now. I visited their rooftop garden and I was inspired by how seemingly easy it was to grow your own food. That friend also said, “Plant until your black thumb becomes green. Having a green thumb is actually a myth.” I was one of those people who killed plants a number of times that I was really convinced gardening was not for me.

However, desperate times call for desperate measures. It’s hard to get fresh vegetables and fruits nowadays. So what was I gonna do about it? I consider myself a prepper – after all, my geology tours highlight preparing for geologic hazards. As a prepper, I decided to imagine the worst case scenario where there’s food shortage and the lockdown being extended because it could take a while to discover drugs that will combat the virus, or find a vaccine that will protect us from getting sick from it. This was my very thought that pushed me to study hydroponics and grow my own food which now brings me to the first skill.

SKILL NO. 1: HYDROPONICS

So one day, when I was desperately trying to book delivery schedule for vegetables and fruits to no success, I remembered the beautiful rooftop garden my friend has. The challenge of planting came to me immediately as I live in a small condo unit. I obviously needed a planting system that is possible to do in a limited space. I asked a few questions to my friend and got the idea of hydroponics. I then decided to join Facebook groups (local and international) who are growing plants hydroponically and got to read some of the posts there. That’s where I found out about the different types/systems of hydroponics and how easily some of these could be set-up. I even downloaded an e-book about hydroponics that was also shared in the forum. I watched videos about one simple system that I know newbies like me would be able to do – the passive hydroponics system called Kratky. In Kratky system, the plants are planted in jars full of nutrient solution and leave them to grow under 6 hours of sunlight daily until harvest time. No air pump is needed for this kind of system, unlike in active systems – which is good since I don’t have one and the hardwares selling them are closed. For planters, I used empty glass and plastic jars, ice cream tubs, even an empty Piknik container! What I love the most about Kratky is that the system is easy and you get to re-use old jars and tubs. Less trash for the environment. Win!

Kratky hydroponics set-up using ice cream tubs that are painted white planted with lettuce as shared in the group, Hydroponics Philippines.

One of the regrets I had while reading the e-book on hydroponics was that I didn’t start this before the quarantine. Since majority of the establishments were closed, I initially had a hard time sourcing materials I would need for my garden. I searched the groups for those who are locally selling and luckily, I found a post where someone’s asking for local supplier who ship during quarantine – which brought me to my first supplier, CRS Hydroponics Enterprise. I looked them up on Facebook and messaged them for my order which was a list of seeds, nutrient solution, a basic kit, a set of rock wool, hydrotons, and net cups. If you would like to start your Kratky Hydroponic set-up at home, I’m going to write another article about it in full details after I’ve published this one. If you want to order from CRS, browse their online catalog through the website link below:

https://crshydroponics.com/

My Kratky hydroponics at home using ice cream tubs and planted with highland kangkong and petsay. Below this layer is my lettuce.
One time the sky was overcast so I had to expose my plants to this LED grow light to ensure they get the light they need to grow. In the picture are my net cups with rock wools containing one-week old lettuce, pechay, tomato, bell pepper, cowpea, kagkong, cilantro and basil. Also in the picture is my sweet potato tops in a jar full of half-strength nutrient solution which I got from the grocery.

SKILL NO. 2: BASIC LIFE SAVING AND CPR

During a pandemic, the hospital is the first place you’d want to avoid for now. For one, the hospitals will be packed with people who are sick and the staff and medical professionals are already overwhelmed because of this pandemic. The last thing you’d want is to catch the disease as contagious as SARS-COV-2 or be a collateral damage – patients who died because hospital facilities and resources are maxed out. We all know how this has already happened in some of the patients in the country.

One time, I got so anxious about this whole COVID thing, there were three straight nights that I couldn’t sleep. On the fourth day, I felt a faint coming and immediately grabbed a bar of chocolate to energize me. Learning first aid also proved useful when I cut myself accidentally while slicing (I don’t have a drill) holes on my empty ice cream tubs for my Kratky hydroponics set-up.

Remember, knowing how to manage simple illness and injuries at home helps you avoid going to the hospitals. Obviously, serious injuries and illness need to be address by visiting a health professional but knowing how to stop bleeding, deal with faint, how to apply CPR are also useful while en route to the ER.

Thankfully, I haven’t found myself in a situation where applying CPR was needed but I’m sharing it here because having this skill is a necessity especially during times of disasters. When this pandemic is over, I suggest you book a training with Red Cross as soon as possible.

SKILL NO. 3: AROMATHERAPY

I’ve been using essential oils for wellness since 2017 but it was only last year that I got the formal training for Aromatherapy. The reason why I have included this to the list of skills is because essential oils have done wonders on my family’s health. Prior to use of essential oils, I was prone to colds, flu, allergic rhinitis, and skin problems. I also used to be insomniac.

Using essential oils for the past three years has helped alleviate those conditions. I get quality sleep now more than ever. I’ve also decided to take the aromatherapy training to get certified for it and be an efficient coach for my Oilista Manila team.

Just two weeks ago, my and son and I developed rashes, an allergic reaction to something we ate that I made a topical balm using essential oils, coconut oil and beeswax and applied on the rashes. The rashes and associated itchiness were gone in minutes. I also made my own chest rubs for those mornings when my kids had mild cough and cold or allergic rhinitis. My youngest had a low degree fever on the first week of quarantine so I gave him a tepid bath added with essential oils. Essential oils help with wellness, science has already proven that.

I made chest rubs to help with mild cough using these pure essential oils, beeswax, grapeseed oil and virgin coconut oil.

To read more about aromatherapy, do visit my other blog site: https://oilistamanila.wordpress.com/

Some skin and hair care products I made using my essential oils. The big pump jar behind contains my own version of waterless hand sanitizer which is aloe-vera gel based and infused with essential oils and 70% ethyl alcohol.

SKILL NO. 4: COOKING

Last and most important skill of all, is culinary skill. When you know how to cook even with less supplies, you’re good. I’m lucky my dad who was a great cook taught me early on. When I was a young kid, I enjoyed watching my dad cook in the kitchen – from washing the vegetables and fish, chopping them up, and sautéing or stewing. Dad used to be an all-around chef in one of the biggest hotels in Manila in the 70’s. He was trained by Austrian chefs and also a true blue Bicolano – such a great combination when it comes to culinary experiments, if I may say so.

My cooking skills have always been useful to me, pandemic or not. I love experimenting with whatever are available in the pantry and so far, I’ve had very few complaints from those who tried my culinary experiments. Cooking is such a therapeutic activity for me that I’ve cooked food for my kids’ and husband’s birthday parties, more often than not. Cooking can be exhausting, yes, but also, therapeutic. I’d choose this chore over household cleaning and laundry! I also saved moolah by cooking our own meals rather than ordering or eating out (we do indulge sometimes).

My enthusiasm for experimenting in the kitchen was so useful one day when I couldn’t find bread anywhere. My kids love bread especially pancakes made out of instant pancake mix. Then I remembered that a friend sent me a recipe once on how to make pancakes from scratch. So I tried it using the all purpose flour in my stash, milk + vinegar instead of buttermilk, and mixed in other ingredients. My pancakes turned out fluffy and way better than the mix we buy at supermarket. I realized I have been feeding inferior pancakes to my kids!

I also tried to make donuts for the first time – ones with holes in the middle which I flattened using empty Gerber jar (in lieu of rolling pin); and ones that are round filled with orange marmalade and cheese dipped in hazelnut spread. We all loved it! Next experiment I’d be doing is empanada (pie with meat filling) with leftover picadillo or canned tuna.

Homemade donuts filled with orange marmalade.

Fish sardines fish balls for my little ones.

Photo above is another culinary experiment, sardines fishball, from a recipe posted by Panlasang Pinoy but tweaked with addition of minced bell pepper, white onions, and dried basil to lessen the fishy smell. The sauce was made by adding vinegar, sugar and cornstarch to the sardine’s sauce.

Moving forward, here are some of the skills I feel I also need to develop in the coming weeks and months. If you notice, some of them are on basic level only. When this pandemic is over, I’ll leave the job to the experts!

1. Basic hair cut – coz my mane needs a cut

2. Basic baking – to bake our own pandesal and cupcakes

3. Soil gardening – for when we move to a place with backyard

4. Aquaculture – coz my kids have been dying to have their own fish pet but I wanted to hit two birds with one stone

5. Basic sewing – to fix minor wardrobe failure

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