by Barbara Joy Cooley
William McAdams, Sr., was a tall man with fair skin and blue eyes. He was of Scottish ancestry, the sort of Scot who knew much about cattle and horses, and who wrote many letters. When he was 25 years old, he was already known as one of the best farmers in Illinois; he was a particularly well-known breeder of Shorthorn cattle.
In 1861, at that young age of 25, he entered the Union army’s 59th infantry and was given quartermaster duties in Company H. This was not a simple job; there was no effective supply chain during the Civil War. McAdams and his colleagues had to acquire supplies as the army moved through the South. How was this accomplished? Well, McAdams and his colleagues would sneak out to the next town, ahead of the other soldiers, and they’d steal the best horses, cattle, and food that they could find. That’s how a large part of the provisions were procured. War is hell. This Company H was in the battles of Pea Ridge, Bay Springs, Liberty Gap, Chattanooga, Missionary Ridge, the Siege of Corinth, Stone River, Chickamauga, Lookout Mountain, and Ringold.
When I am having slight difficulties getting certain groceries or household items delivered during this unprecedented time of the coronavirus, I think of William, who was my great-great grandfather, and the challenges he faced in this large quartermaster responsibility. Then my slight difficulties or inconveniences seem very small indeed.
I haven’t purchased toilet paper since last December. I include it on my order form each week, but it never comes. Thank goodness we have a bidet; it makes the TP supply last longer. I think of the Civil War soldiers who had no toilet paper, and this inconvenience of mine seems very small indeed.
My husband Tom and I have been in isolation longer than most people; we started isolating on March 11. Before the coronavirus crisis, I was not a stranger to ordering online. But now I know a few more tricks (but no stealing) and, as the great-great-grandaughter of a quartermaster, I would like to share them with you.
1. Don’t freak out if a web site says that there are no delivery time slots available, or if the next available delivery time isn’t until next week. Check back later — preferably early the next morning — and you may find that new and more convenient delivery times are available.
2. Some web sites don’t tell you that delivery is unavailable until you have already spent an hour shopping, then you go to check out and discover that delivery is not possible. Try to determine delivery availability before you spend time shopping. Baileys-sanibel.com is very good about this; the next delivery times are listed in a black and white box at the top of the point-and-click shopping page so you don’t waste time shopping pointlessly. And Bailey’s does add more delivery time slots as the week goes on.
3. Bailey’s is great, but it doesn’t always have everything you want. If you try Amazon Pantry, you will find the pickings are not many. But Pantry will surprise you occasionally in a pleasant way. Don’t wait too long to check out, however; things may no longer be available when you check out if you dally. One day I thought I had TP in my cart on Amazon Pantry, but by the time I went to check out, poof! It was gone.
4. Weirdly, it is difficult to find yeast and flour. On my third week of ordering in isolation, I finally managed to get three little packets of active dry yeast from Bailey’s. Meanwhile, as a backup, I ordered a container of active dry yeast from the King Arthur flour company in Vermont. The yeast arrived today, 14 days after I ordered it. Patience is necessary.
5. Nothing beats fresh food from Bailey’s, but you might want to have a few things in the freezer, just in case there are perturbations in the supply chain. Several companies sell flash frozen, well-packaged meats, seafoods, and side dishes. I won’t tell you about my favorites because then I will have to wait even longer for my order. But you can find them on the internet. My experience is that the goods arrive frozen and in fine condition.
6. Put a table outside your front door, with a paper sign on the wall above it, asking the delivery person to leave the packages on the table and ring the doorbell. Sign the paper sign, so that if the delivery person is supposed to get a signature, he/she can take that paper (or photograph it). If you must sign something, ask the delivery person to put the form or machine on the table and to then step back a few feet. Then you step up and sign using your own pen or stylus. Step back, and disinfect the pen or stylus with a wipe. Then thank the delivery person and go wash your hands.
7. If the package contents do not need to be refrigerated or frozen, leave them outside on the table as long as you can — perhaps a few hours in the sun, if possible. The Cooley household is extra cautious because Tom has an underlying medical condition. If you want to be extra cautious, disinfect the outside of the packages, open them, and disinfect the contents, one by one. Place the disinfected items into a clean laundry basket that is not on the table. I use a third of a cup of bleach in one gallon of water and a dishcloth to disinfect items. When that’s not practical, use a disinfectant wipe. For fresh fruits and vegetables that have an outer skin on them (apples, tomatoes, avocados, etc.), dump them into soapy water, wash them like you wash your hands, rinse, and dry with paper towels.
8. Put the empty boxes off to the side and don’t bother with touching them until the day before recycling pickup. Disinfect the table top. Then go wash your hands.
9. If you have forgone restaurant food, as we have, due to a desire to be extra cautious, think of the money you are saving by preparing your own food. Then please go donate some of that money to FISH of Sanibel, an organization that is helping many island residents and workers through this difficult time.
Thank you for isolating.