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Tired of screens, some are adopting old-fashioned hobbies in quarantine

Sara Raymond said building this dollhouse has been "all consuming." (Photo courtesy of Sara Raymond)

While many are passing the time in quarantine in front of screens, others are using their rare, free time to explore more wholesome, Little House On The Prairie-esque pastimes and hobbies.

“Just last week, we were supposed to be performing my musical in Los Angeles,” said Seattle musician, comedian, and writer, Ahamefule J. Oluo. “Definitely didn’t envision myself sitting at home reading the manual on my table saw.”

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With no rehearsals or meetings to attend in the city, Oluo and his wife, writer Lindy West, took up residence at her family’s cabin near Hood Canal two months ago.

“The nearest grocery store is about 40 minutes away and we’re really trying to limit our trips,” Oluo said. “I love to cook, cooking is a huge part of my life, and to think ahead about how we’re going to preserve our food to have fresh food every day has been really successful. But one of the problems is having fresh, leafy greens for salad; it only lasts a few days in your refrigerator. We planted lettuce and we’re eating them faster than we can grow them. It was the thing that I was really, really missing, and I began a quest to try and find some kind of wild growing green.”

His quest ended after he texted a picture of what he thought looked like an edible green to a friend who works as a plant pathologist.

“He was like, ‘That’s Siberian miner’s lettuce. It’s delicious, it tastes like spinach, and you should eat it.’ I looked around me and there was just a complete abundance of it everywhere and I was overwhelmed with a sense of relief and joy that my salad shortage was over,” Oluo laughed. “You know, this thing you totally take for granted when you live in the city and you can get whatever you want.”

Meanwhile, in Puyallup, Sara Raymond has been furloughed since March.

“I would get up and be watching whatever on Netflix, and then I started watching a Disney movie every day,” Raymond said. “So I was like, I need something that’s more involved and is going to take up more time and distract me a lot better from everything going on.”

For over a year, Raymond had been daydreaming of building a dollhouse, picking out tiny furniture, and putting up tiny sheets of wallpaper; something she never could done with her busy work schedule. So she ordered a kit and works on it for hours every day. When she’s not working on the dollhouse, she’s thinking about it.

“That’s part of it. My mind is always going: What can I use to make a little pot of flowers or a little chair? Yes, it’s all consuming at this point,” Raymond said.

For those interested in gardening, getting a plot at one of Seattle’s 90 P-Patch community gardens has always been a waiting game, especially in denser neighborhoods like Capitol Hill.

“Those wait lists may be anywhere from three to five years,” said Department of Neighborhoods P-Patch program supervisor, Kenya Fredie.

And since the quarantine started, Fredie says even more people want to garden. Over the last 90 days, they’ve assigned 435 plots to new gardeners.

“I think people are really just finding a way to get their hands dirty and grow their own food to curb the cost of food. The economic ripple effects are unknown,” Fredie said. “To get out and breathe some fresh air. [Some use it for] home schooling, which is one of my favorites. I love seeing people go on bug hunts to get credit in a class.”

Seattle’s Taurmini Fentress got her new P-Patch plot about two weeks ago.

“We were spending quite a bit of time inside,” Fentress said. “We live in an apartment building, we have no access to outside space. I also work two jobs, I am a doctoral student right now, and I’m home full-time with my 8 year old. Since we’ve gotten this patch, I’ve re-calibrated my schedule so I actually take two hours off in the middle of the day and we go to the P-Patch during that time, and then usually we’ll take a late evening walk there, too.”

Fentress said tending to their garden is soothing and engages her 8-year-old, Zeph.

“I really liked it when the radishes sprouted and there were a lot of them,” Zeph said. “I think they’re going to taste really good.”

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Back to Oluo and his table saw, he plans to build some garden beds any day now.

“I do feel like I’m, at least for my own purposes, making the most of it, learning a lot. Trying to come out of it a better person than when I came into it.”

Listen to Rachel Belle’s James Beard Award nominated podcast, “Your Last Meal,” featuring celebrities like Death Cab For Cutie’s Ben Gibbard, Rainn Wilson, and Greta Gerwig. Follow @yourlastmealpodcast on Instagram & join the Quarantine Cooking Club!

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