Voices From Within: Introspection from PPL Staffers

Hey Gang!

I’m very excited to introduce the newest blog in our library family: Voices From Within.

Here you will be hearing from members of our library staff (Not me. You hear enough from me as it is. Ha!), and what makes them tick, what their interests are, what they bring to the library and, thus, what they bring to you.

Personally, I can’t wait to read what tales they tell! I hope you enjoy them as much as I am sure I will.

In this first installation of Voices From Within, Children’s Librarian Rebecca Donnelly talks about how she has been coping with being quarantined during the pandemic and she taps into several of us PPL staffers to find out what hobbies we’ve picked up during our new-found time at home.

What new hobbies have you picked up during these strange and uncertain times of pandemic isolation? Maybe Rebecca’s blog can give you some inspiration! Read on, dear patrons.

As per usual, I’m glad to be here!

Your Adult Program Coordinator,

William “W.T.” Eckert

What We Do To Get Through

By Rebecca Donnelly

In the early days of pandemic self-isolation, I’d burst out my back door and into the fresh air of my tiny yard any chance I got. I found enough wood under my shed, left by the previous owners, to build a couple of raised beds and plant early greens: chard, mustard, arugula. I built benches so I’d have somewhere to sit and watch the fragile shoots arrive and the thriving squirrel population launch their attacks on my beloved dirt. I attempted a bird feeder and dug out my Peterson’s Guide to Eastern Birds, pointing with glee every time a chickadee landed to grab a sunflower seed. “That,” I would say proudly to my seven-year-old, “is a kinglet. No, wait, it’s a chickadee. I think.” Like many others whose quarantine allowed them to adjust to this new reality at home, I came face to face with the yawning canyon of time and, to create the illusion of control, tried to fill it with nature lore and handicrafts. 

A table and bench built by Children’s Librarian Rebecca Donnelly during her time in pandemic isolation.

The most surprising legacy of my quarantine, though, might be the homemade yogurt. Springing from my slight obsession with reducing plastic waste, I decided to try making my own yogurt. I found a recipe at The Kitchn and, using eight cups of milk, one pot of store-bought yogurt, and a meat thermometer that gave me neither the high nor the low end of the required temperature spectrum, I tended my mini bacterial culture farm. Six hours later, I had two and a half peanut butter jars of runny, grainy goop, but my nose told me it was definitely yogurt.

Six months into this, I can still usually identify chickadees and goldfinches. I have three awkward benches and a little side table, more garden space dug out for next spring, and no bird feeder (dang squirrels). I’ve baked more bread and sourdough biscuits than I can fathom, and my little shed sports two roughly painted barn quilts. But it’s that weird yogurt I’m most proud of. It’s easy, it appeals to my quirky throwback side, and it even lets me wax a little philosophical, because why not?  I have time. Like sourdough starter, yogurt is powered by bacteria that will keep reproducing under the right conditions. It’s a small, optimistic investment in continuity. Whenever I make a batch of yogurt, I set aside half a cup to use the next time, carrying forward a little of the past with me into the next week of the unknown. 

Along with yogurt, furniture and raised flower beds, Children’s Librarian Rebecca Donnelly has also taken to making shed quilts.

Our PPL staff have been busy, too. Our director Annie has taken up the same scarf she’s been knitting for three years and is teaching her daughter to crochet and bake. Circulation supervisor Hayley is pickling and preserving summer’s bounty while adult program coordinator William has been perfecting his no-knead bread. I’m trying to convince circulation clerk Erin to open an Etsy store for ironic needlepoint designs.

Knitting has been a common hobby picked up by many, PPL Director Annie Davey included, during this new-found time at home during the pandemic.

What have you been doing to get through this time? Which quarantine pursuits have you joyfully abandoned, and which will you bring with you, like a jar of homemade yogurt, into the future?