Growth in Isolation
Illustration by Igor Kubik
Fiction, Nature

Growth in Isolation

Pandemic Diaries
Anna Mitchell
time 5 minutes

Late August, early morning. On a step stool in the wood-panelled pantry of an old farmhouse, Sophie Perry, in the sun. She is stooped over plastic bags, condensation gathering on the insides, standing straight like cylinders. Each bag contains a roll of toilet paper – and each roll of toilet paper, the spores of mushrooms. In her overalls, Sophie leans closer, peers into the bags, sprays each one with water. This is hope, living. This is living hope.

For her, an ecology student and experienced farmer, growing food indoors or out seems natural, even necessary. Yet the practice of planting, tending and harvesting plants is an artful and intentional labour. For the past eight months of off-and-on isolation, Sophie has found hope and refuge in this practice.

Since moving to an orchard in rural Michigan, she has set-up small operations for growing sprouts and, most prominently, mushrooms. Sophie and I, at the supermarket. We were looking for toilet paper – cheap but sturdy. The toilet paper would provide the perfect habitat for the Grey Dove Oyster spores. The trick to these mushrooms, Sophie explained, is


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