I know that currently much of the world is in some kind of quarantine or lockdown either voluntarily or mandatory. And many are struggling to find things to do to entertain or occupy themselves with much of their regular activities canceled or closed. Since I feel very blessed that little has changed about my life here in my tiny house, I thought I'd try to make a little list of what I stay busy with. Maybe some of them will be things you are interested in or enjoy too, or maybe they'll just inspire new ideas of your own! I sure there's no way that all of them will work in every place or interest everyone, but I feel like I have so many interests, hobbies, and things I'd like to learn that I could fill several lifetimes before I got bored! While this is by no means an exhaustive list, here's a lot of what keeps me busy at various times during the year or
day in and around my tiny house.
First, one of my favorites. While gardening is still a bit in the future for me right now with 6F / -14C this morning and the snow still nearly three feet deep in the yard and garden, it is something I spend a lot of time on in the warmer months. It's a wonderful way to produce at least a little bit (or possibly a lot!) of your own food which has seen a huge surge in interest given the disruptions to grocery stores in many areas! And even if you don't care to grow edible things, just growing flowers can be wonderful for one's mental health. Not to mention the benefits of touching soil, fresh air, moment, and sunshine. Many things that are edible grow quite rapidly, a necessity in my cold area. The garden shot below and the first photo above are only six weeks apart. In my location I grow mostly various leafy things, root things, and a handful of others. These can almost all be grown in early spring in most parts of the country giving you meals worth of food rather rapidly. I can't possible get into any real depth on a single topic in this post, but gardening can be done in the ground and raised beds like I have, in planters on a porch or deck, in pots inside a sunny window, and even in just a jar or tray inside with no light at all.
Some fun resources I am aware of if you are new to gardening or want to learn more about it with newly free time in your life are:
I have to mention the videos and such I've done about my own garden, seed planning, and some harvesting here around Fy Nyth in case you want to know more about what I do - https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLahYrM1qHHGPf40unByiAKyeHZO-hBaKT
If you can't get outside at all, even on your own property, either because you don't have any, it's still winter, or due to current regulations, you can at the very least grow sprouts. Something I do all winter long here in my tiny house and that is so quick (food ready to eat in less than a week!) and fun to watch. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DEG9eH6Y_YE
Oregon State University has a master gardening course available online for free. While they had about 200 folks take advantage of it last year when it opened, over 10,000 have already signed up this spring. - https://workspace.oregonstate.edu/course/master-gardener-series-vegetable-gardening?hsLang=en
MI Gardener has a lot of wonderful information on gardening in Michigan which is slightly warmer than my area on his channel as well as a seed company he and his lovely wife and little daughter run. Many seed companies are selling out rapidly right now and it does take a whole year to produce more seeds for most plants. - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVGVbOl6F5rGF4wSYS6Y5yQ
Charles Dowding has a vast amount of experience gardening in the much warmer (compared to me) and damp climate of England on his channel - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCB1J6siDdmhwah7q0O2WJBg
The Fit Farmer and his family garden (as well as live in a yurt!) in the south of the country so they have a lot of experience in much much warmer weather than myself - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgrA2BxbEwkStpOefAMYH_Q
Urban Farmer Curtis Stone has a wealth of info on gardening in urban settings for everyone who doesn't have a bit of yard or ground of their own - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-BlDCX__nCLs_ZF9meYQbw
To get a little more in depth on some aspects of growing food, you might enjoy Living Web Farms wide variety of topics - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCiBgK94oWs_x2wszFD-nlEQ
And there are a host of wonderful books to learn from. Below are a few of my all time favorites that I own, though I'm sure there are many more. And several of these authors have other books too. Find them and others I like at https://amzn.to/39JuHkI .
If you need seeds and can't find or buy them locally at the moment, I personally order most of my seeds every year through Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Though be aware that almost all seed companies are swamped with exponentially higher than normal orders right now, so there will probably be shipping delays. - https://www.rareseeds.com
Other good small, organic, heirloom, and rare seed companies to source seeds from that I'm aware of:
My second topic could almost have been my first one, as it is really one of my favorite things ever to do with my time. Though you could live without it, and food you do need for continued life. Read a book! Reading can transport you to other worlds, even if you never leave your home. Or be a wonderful source for learning new skills. I mostly read books to learn things, but I also very much enjoy being transported away to new worlds by good fiction as well. I love holding a physical book and sitting down to read it. Since much of the time I am too busy to do that though, I listen to a lot of audio books while doing other things like cooking, wood splitting, or cleaning. Ever since I was a small child, I've loved to have someone read books to me and it often helps my focus to do something else relatively mindless while listening to books. If not a chore of some kind, I like coloring, sketching, putting together a puzzle, or knitting while listening. Audio books are also wonderful if physically reading is hard for you. I have 4 siblings who all have some level of dyslexia and sitting down to read a physical book has always been and will probably always be challenging for them. Having someone read to you eliminates that issue.
My local library, which is physically closed right now, subscribes to the Hoopla digital book service. Many other libraries do as well, so at least if you are in the States (I'm not sure if they operate in other countries at the moment or not.) your library may let you check out both digital books and audio books for free. Think of it kind of like Netflix for books. Sadly at the moment they don't offer an option to just buy an account on your own, so you do have to go through a participating library you have a card for.
You can also give Audible a try and if you're a Prime member, at the moment you can get at least two downloads for free.
If you need ideas for books to check out, check out my (very not complete or at all exhaustive) list of some of my personal favorites at https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/13763009 across a wide variety of topics and categories. There's 650ish books on there right now and every now and then when I have a minute I add new favorites.
Another fun one if you currently have the option to go outside, which many places are not currently trying to ban as long as you're on your own and not within 6 feet of others, is wild food foraging. Now I do have to note, PLEASE, if you are going to eat anything, be SURE you know what it is first. But in general, spring, which at least those of us in the northern hemisphere are in right now, is a wonderful time to find lots of wild foods for free. Plus it's a fun outdoor thing that is normally done solo anyway, that gives you fresh air, exercise, and can provide food for you. And some foods are generally very easy to identify by most folks, like dandelions. Did you know I've even made cookies with them? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9k3yRIg316k
A few good guides for learning more about this topic that I own are pictured below. Find them and other books I like at https://amzn.to/39JuHkI .
And if you're anywhere in the Pennsylvania area or similar locations like Ohio and surrounding areas, this fellow has a lot of fun videos on learning more about what's on your land. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCcbf8wnyVJl631LAmAbo7nw I'm sure like all the other topics here, there are many more great resources I'm not aware of as well.
And of course, many of you can still get outside for a walk, run, or hike, especially if you have a dog. Again if staying away from others in many locations. Burley and I continue to be blessed with our already remote areas and enjoy long snowshoes at the moment. Eventually, those will turn back into more green summery walks in the mountains. But even my friend who lives in the heart of Washington D.C. can still go outside for a run along the streets right now. Just being outdoors for fresh air, sunshine (or snow!), and movement is wonderful for both mental and physical health!
Which brings me to pets. If you have the option, both space wise in your home and life, and financially, and don't have a pet already, consider adopting one! Many folks have been emptying shelters in the past couple weeks as they realize how wonderful it is to have the companionship of an animal especially when isolated from many other people. The health benefits of animal companions in the areas of mental health, lowering stress, and more have been well documented for many years. Many shelters are happy to work with doing all the paperwork and such via the internet or phone and get you connected with a new companion even right now. Now my guy is high energy which works well for my life, but even an older house cat can be a wonderful companion and require a much smaller investment of time and energy. So consider adopting a new companion while you have extra free time, if you realistically can keep them in your life into the future. I know Burley has been wonderful for my life and mental health personally!
If something like a dog or cat is not possible for one reason or another, or even if they are, consider adding a wild bird feeder outside your window! You may well be able to even attach one to your window and never need to go outside to fill it. I have enjoyed uncounted hours watching my little birds come and go. There's something so relaxing and fascinating about observing their behavior, pretty colors, songs, and interactions with each other. My favorite feeders for ease of use, being squirrel proof, and durability are all found here - https://amzn.to/2yAKKon . I've personally been using all of them for years and am very happy with them. If you have a need to keep the feeders away from other wildlife, whether deer, coons, bears, etc. check out my simple pulley setup that has so far prevented anything, including the bears that visit my house, from getting into my bird feeders. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0zylzSISwE
Depending on the current bird population in your area, you may start getting visitors the day you hang one up, or it might be several weeks or months before they find your offering. But then you get to enjoy observing them, and support the health of songbird populations around the globe!
Or how about taking up photography, or improving your skills in that area if you already enjoy it? Obviously this is another thing that I love spending my time on. While wildlife is usually my main focus, there are many other photography topics that are fun to pursue like macro work, miniatures, architecture, pet or human portraits, astro, food, birds, and many more. And while a big camera with a big lens is very helpful for photographing potentially dangerous large wildlife, most of these topics can be pursued with small cameras or a smart phone if you have one. When I first started out learning about photography in my teens, I did the coursework for a class through The New York Institute of Photography, https://www.nyip.edu , with a friend. They offer paid courses unlike most of what I am linking to here. My friend had paid for the course and therefore was the only one who got credit for it. But three of us friends did all the coursework and assignments together which was a lot of fun and I feel like I learned a very good foundation that I've been able to improve on for many years now. It looks like you can find great free courses through https://photographycourse.net/learn-photography/ as well. Because whatever you do, it's fun to have good photos to remember them by. You can see below the difference a few changes to technique can make in the kinds of backpacking photos I have for instance.
On that note, one person who inspires me photographically is my good friend Moose. We first met because of our mutual interest in Tiny Houses. So if you enjoy much of what I share, and don't already know Moose, I think you'll enjoy changing that. He has self built and lived in two different tiny houses now. (As well as a boat, the Russian tundra, Alaska, and lots of other unique places.) We have lived near each other for a little while though we are now several thousand miles apart. We did a good bit of wildlife photography together when in the same area, with things like winter van camping to watch wildlife, some small hikes, and spotting the first WY grizzly bear out for the year one spring! He is far more skilled than I and always inspires me to get better at what I am doing and to get out and shoot more. The above photo is one I snapped of him while we were both photographing a great grey owl. And he has a new youtube channel you should all go check out and subscribe to while looking for interesting things to do! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RRcQpPMY380 You'll find both photography and tiny house related topics covered there. Having similar setups to our tiny houses and both living off grid in cold climates, it's always helpful for me to see what things we do in the same way, and what things he does differently then me that work well for him. Also find his amazing photography, lots of unique personal wildlife and photography stories, photography tips, photographic gear money saving tips, and more at https://moosehenderson.blog .
Consider learning a craft like embroidery, cross stitch, or knitting which I learned as a child. (Yep, that's a very old photo of me below, shortly after my grandmother taught me to knit. 😃) These are all fun, and can produce useful results too, such as one of the many hats (below) that I've made for myself and friends over the years.
Among others, learn to knit free lessons can be found at:
Learn to cross stitch / embroider:
You could start a worm farm! Or ant farm, etc. These are especially fun for children I think, but I might have a lot of child left inside in this area. Worm farms are my favorite because they are so easy to keep, are great for turning kitchen scraps into useful soil, and are fun to watch. I've successfully kept worms in 5 gallon buckets in my garage for years before moving into my tiny house. They ate all the organic waste from our kitchen and made wonderful rich worm castings. This post has great instructions for an easy way to do that - https://www.attainable-sustainable.net/make-a-worm-composter-for-less-than-five-bucks/ . Or just have fun watching them munch up food on this guys amazing time lapses! https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLMXQWDlzK6p82BlI_uK0xs2locpu7L7xp . While I now have my worms much less visible then that in both my toilet and outside compost piles, they are still a valuable part of my daily life. And very easy to keep indoors even in small spaces!
Or how about learn to play an instrument? When I was younger, I did play guitar for a little bit, but just never seem to make the time in life in the past many years. I just have too many things I want to do, which is wonderful. But if I had extra time in life, that would be something I'd very much enjoy picking up. And once again there are many free options to learn from.
Free Guitar lessons - https://www.justinguitar.com/categories/beginner-guitar-lessons-grade-1
A lot of music theory - https://www.musictheory.net/lessons
And of course there are many more good sites for guitar and music theory, as well as similar options for other instruments too.
And a handful more ideas, mostly from my personal "if I'm ever bored and have more time I'd like to do these things" list. 😏
Learn to make your own cosmetics and household products! I don't do much of this personally as I don't use most cosmetics and such but for the handful of things I do use, over the years I've found https://crunchybetty.com to have great ideas, plus to be just fun to read!
Learn a new language! I would probably give https://www.babbel.com
a shot myself, just because I've heard a lot of great things about it, but there are a lot of other free options too. From https://www.duolingo.com to MIT's free online courses https://ocw.mit.edu/courses/global-studies-and-languages/
Or maybe improve your financial knowledge, budgeting skills, get out of debt or at least develop a plan to do so, and improve your stability and ability to weather whatever kind of unexpected crisis may arise in the future. Plus increase your ability to pursue the things you really value. Some resources I've found helpful, informative, or inspiring over the years in this area are https://www.mrmoneymustache.com who writes with a wonderful sense of humor and is very open about his family's own financial numbers and decisions and how things work out. Mrs. Frugalwood who wrote “Meet The Frugalwoods: Achieving Financial Independence Through Simple Living” a book I found to have solid helpful advice and to be inspiring also writes a blog at https://www.frugalwoods.com . Cait Flander's book "A Year of Less" describing her journey I found very inspirational as well as raw at times as she shares her emotions and ups and downs with her plans. Find it at https://caitflanders.com/the-year-of-less/ And of course, here again there are many more resources. I find myself most helped and motivated by folks who are doing or have accomplished the things I want to do and who are willing to share what they did to get there. Along with their errors and failures.
Learn a new business skill! This could be anything from something you would personally like to do as your own business someday, or a new skill that improves your chances of being hired by other employers. These kinds of things seem rather important in a time when many jobs have just disappeared overnight leaving many of us pretty insecure even if we still have income right now. Of course a few of the ideas above like being fluent in more languages or better at photography etc. could already greatly benefit job skills. But there is a host of other things one can learn thanks to the magic of resources available via the internet. Most of these cover the majority of things you could learn in a collage. There are many more resources through people's blogs, videos, and books for learning about other more hands on skills like cooking, baking, canning, building, carpentry, farming, and more just for some more ideas.
Already mentioned under learning a new language, there's a lot of other things that could be learned through MIT's free courses - https://ocw.mit.edu/courses/find-by-topic/
Skill Share has tons of different things you can choose from to learn. From graphic design, to web design, plant care, advertising, and far too many more to list. This link even gives you your first two months free so you can give it a try - Skillshare.com/woods
Many top universities offer free courses through - https://www.edx.org
Many inexpensive collage level courses are available through Carnegie Mellon University -https://oli.cmu.edu/courses/
And if none of the above interest you at all and you just want to sit on the couch and watch something, at least don't forget there are a lot of fascinating documentaries about history, nature, etc. available through places like Amazon and Netflix (probably something on TV too, but I've never had that) that can at least leave you having learned something more interesting and probably more valuable than staying glued to negative news. 😀
Now I hope there's something in there that you would find interesting or that has inspired another idea for what to do with your time if you're looking for options. Either way, in most situations it's best to focus on what one can do, and keep moving forward as much as possible. And I'm sure many of you have ideas or interests of your own that have never even occurred to me. Share them below and then others can be inspired too! Oh and if you think some ideas or resources listed here would be helpful to someone else you know who is struggling right now, please share this post with them!