Life During Covid: A Visual Diary - 27 East

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Life During Covid: A Visual Diary

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Another Two-Hour Delay, March 17, 2020.

Another Two-Hour Delay, March 17, 2020.

Another Two-Hour Delay, March 17, 2020.

Another Two-Hour Delay, March 17, 2020. JILL MUSNICKI INSTAGRAM PHOTO

Another Two-Hour Delay, March 17, 2020.

Another Two-Hour Delay, March 17, 2020. JILL MUSNICKI INSTAGRAM PHOTO

Another Two-Hour Delay, March 17, 2020.

Another Two-Hour Delay, March 17, 2020. JILL MUSNICKI INSTAGRAM PHOTO

Another Two-Hour Delay, March 17, 2020.

Another Two-Hour Delay, March 17, 2020. JILL MUSNICKI INSTAGRAM PHOTO

Another Two-Hour Delay, March 17, 2020.

Another Two-Hour Delay, March 17, 2020. JILL MUSNICKI INSTAGRAM PHOTO

Another Two-Hour Delay, March 17, 2020.

Another Two-Hour Delay, March 17, 2020. JILL MUSNICKI INSTAGRAM PHOTO

Another Two-Hour Delay, March 17, 2020.

Another Two-Hour Delay, March 17, 2020. JILL MUSNICKI INSTAGRAM PHOTO

Another Two-Hour Delay, March 17, 2020.

Another Two-Hour Delay, March 17, 2020. JILL MUSNICKI INSTAGRAM PHOTO

Another Two-Hour Delay, March 17, 2020.

Another Two-Hour Delay, March 17, 2020. JILL MUSNICKI INSTAGRAM PHOTO

Another Two-Hour Delay, March 17, 2020.

Another Two-Hour Delay, March 17, 2020. JILL MUSNICKI INSTAGRAM PHOTO

Another Two-Hour Delay, March 17, 2020.

Another Two-Hour Delay, March 17, 2020. JILL MUSNICKI INSTAGRAM PHOTO

Another Two-Hour Delay, March 17, 2020.

Another Two-Hour Delay, March 17, 2020. JILL MUSNICKI INSTAGRAM PHOTO

Another Two-Hour Delay, March 17, 2020.

Another Two-Hour Delay, March 17, 2020. JILL MUSNICKI INSTAGRAM PHOTO

Another Two-Hour Delay, March 17, 2020.

Another Two-Hour Delay, March 17, 2020. JILL MUSNICKI INSTAGRAM PHOTO

Another Two-Hour Delay, March 17, 2020.

Another Two-Hour Delay, March 17, 2020. JILL MUSNICKI INSTAGRAM PHOTO

Another Two-Hour Delay, March 17, 2020.

Another Two-Hour Delay, March 17, 2020. JILL MUSNICKI INSTAGRAM PHOTO

Another Two-Hour Delay, March 17, 2020.

Another Two-Hour Delay, March 17, 2020. JILL MUSNICKI INSTAGRAM PHOTO

Another Two-Hour Delay, March 17, 2020.

Another Two-Hour Delay, March 17, 2020. JILL MUSNICKI INSTAGRAM PHOTO

Another Two-Hour Delay, March 17, 2020.

Another Two-Hour Delay, March 17, 2020. JILL MUSNICKI INSTAGRAM PHOTO

Another Two-Hour Delay, March 17, 2020.

Another Two-Hour Delay, March 17, 2020. JILL MUSNICKI INSTAGRAM PHOTO

Another Two-Hour Delay, March 17, 2020.

Another Two-Hour Delay, March 17, 2020. JILL MUSNICKI INSTAGRAM PHOTO

Another Two-Hour Delay, March 17, 2020.

Another Two-Hour Delay, March 17, 2020. JILL MUSNICKI INSTAGRAM PHOTO

Another Two-Hour Delay, March 17, 2020.

Another Two-Hour Delay, March 17, 2020. JILL MUSNICKI INSTAGRAM PHOTO

Another Two-Hour Delay, March 17, 2020.

Another Two-Hour Delay, March 17, 2020. JILL MUSNICKI INSTAGRAM PHOTO

authorAnnette Hinkle on May 15, 2020

Preexisting, nonconforming — that was the feature of the diminutive house on Sag Harbor’s Madison Street that Jill Musnicki and her husband, Jameson Ellis, found most appealing when they bought it.

In truth, by Hamptons standards, the house itself is tiny — just 1,200 square feet — but dotting the quarter-acre property behind it are a series of little sheds and outbuildings, which are, as you may have guessed, “preexisting, nonconforming,” says Ms. Musnicki, an artist and talented homesteader who loves that sort of thing.

That means they’re perfectly legal, thanks to zoning standards of yore. And because Ms. Musnicki comes from a Bridgehampton farming family, like anyone with a good dose of rural in their veins, she not only appreciates outbuildings but also knows how to use them.

In fact, over the years, one particular structure has been pressed into service for a variety of uses — from a cozy spot for backyard dinners, and a home for pet bunnies, to a retreat where Ms. Musnicki and her husband hung out when their daughter, Ravenel, was little and the house needed to be quiet so she could sleep.

But Ravenel is 13 now, and learning online from home, like the rest of the eighth-graders at Pierson Middle School. So, in March, Ms. Musnicki converted the structure once again — this time into a one-room schoolhouse.

“She’s not yet excited about using it — it’s been too cold,” confesses Ms. Musnicki, who suspects that Ravenel will move in soon now that the days are growing warmer and longer. “I had an old iMac that I wiped clean, so there’s a computer out there.”

But even without a student yet in residence, the shed/schoolhouse is absolutely adorable and photogenic — particularly when Snowball, one of the family’s resident hens, wanders into the scene.

Ms. Musnicki rarely passes up an opportunity to photograph quiet moments on the home front, and, because she is an artist in so many ways, this sort of thing comes naturally to her, as does the growing of vegetables, the raising of chickens and children, the grinding of meat and the foraging of edible weeds, all of which she has been documenting on her Instagram feed during these months of quarantine.

Call it a visual diary of life during COVID, if you will. It’s almost if Ms. Musnicki has been preparing for this moment of self-reliance since the day she was born.

“We actually always had gardens and chickens, so I thought, ‘We are so ready for this. We can handle this,’” she says. “I feel like, except for curing this disease, we can do everything — we really can.”

Ms. Musnicki was well-taught in the ways of the soil, thanks to her potato-farming grandparents and her late father, Jack, who owned a garden center.

The family still owns a tree farm in Bridgehampton. “The tree farm is 9 acres and our little escape from the quarter of an acre, and we have things growing there, too,” she says. “It’s a godsend. It’s always been a great hangout place, but especially now. Plus, my daughter can get lost in it. Very magical.

“We’re big foragers — in the nursery, in the backyard, on the farm, there’s so many good things, and since Ravenel was little, I’ve taught her what to eat,” she adds.

In terms of edibles, Ms. Musnicki’s personal “backyard” favorite is purslane, but she also likes wild mustard greens and purple goosefoot.

“I make a lot of pesto,” she says. “In my yard, the things that do best are perennial things. I do better with low-maintenance, and I have a big patch of stinging nettles. They are really good. I blanch them really fast and then add them to parsley and whatever else. I also make nettle soup.”

While it may seem that living off the land is the groovy way to swing in these uncertain times, it’s a skill that has always come naturally to Ms. Musnicki.

“For me in my world, it feels intuitive,” she says. “A lot of it, I just know.”

More difficult for Ms. Musnicki has been adapting to the new ways kids like her daughter must now hang out with friends.

“I spent my whole motherhood focusing on being social, always keeping her busy with camp, being in the mix with other people,” Ms. Musnicki says. “I’ve been anti-technology and I’ve been fairly vocal about not liking cellphones, so it’s turned me upside down.

“But she has one and it’s been a life-saver with her cousin,” she added. “I embrace it now — I like any interaction.

“The only thing I don’t like is talking about continuing remote school.”

Jill Musnicki’s Backyard Pesto

I’ve been trying to cultivate stinging nettles for years. In the last few years, they have taken off.

I get a bunch of the tops, maybe about a cup, and do a quick blanch in boiling water, and chop them a little.

Grind ¼ cup pumpkin or sunflower seeds in the food processor till fine.

Add 1 chopped garlic clove

Add the blanched nettles, 2 cups of arugula, 1 cup of wild mustard garlic, and maybe even a few dandelion leaves or flowers.

Add a few pinches of salt.

Process till fine, and add olive oil to your liking, then process a little more.

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