We’ve now crossed over the threshold into May and all of us are still waiting for that light at the end of the tunnel. But if you look closely, there are some early trends emerging all around us during this horrific COVID-19 pandemic.

Online home haircut equipment companies and do-it-yourself hair color product lines are emerging as stay-at-home winners. Dan King photo

Home Depot, Lowe’s, and our local hardware stores have become humming places as furloughed and confined-at-home spouses have assumed the role of general contractor and drawn up Honey-Do lists for dreamed about projects or often-put-off home repairs.

These tasks can no longer be dodged by excuses of having to go to work or pleading, “I need to support our kids at their afternoon games.” No more procrastination, because rooms have to be repainted right now and basements, garages and attics must be cleaned out.

Once this confinement is ended, Maine will experience record numbers of yard sales of now banished family treasures. So be prepared to snap up these bargains. Re-opened Goodwill stores won’t be able to process the tsunami of household and outdated clothing donations coming their way.

The online home haircut equipment companies and do-it-yourself hair color product lines, the longer this lock-down continues, are booming and emerging as early winners. Remember, here in Maine, barber shops and hair salons were declared non-essential and shut down. At first with 6-foot social distancing, you couldn’t pick up the changes taking place on top the heads of other people.

The first sign that something was starting to be amiss was when a spouse would make a chuckling comment to her husband asking how he might look with a man bun or a pony tail. That usually sparked a terse rejoinder, “Your roots are showing.”

For most couples now spending 24/7 together, that was an ill omen that with more time passing, things could be rapidly going downhill. My sister-in-law picked up what could happen nationally, telling us that if the hair salons remained closed through May, there’d be 88 percent fewer blondes among us.

In our Murphy household, it soon became personal. During our travels in Ireland and England, my favorite pub was Scruffy Murphy’s in the old city center of London. I was told that given a few more weeks, the increasingly scruffy top of my head would be a “walking advertisement” for that pub.

In the past, as I’ve motored past the haircut expiration date, I’ve patiently explained that one of my Irish surnames, Cogley, translates from the Gaelic, as “unruly hair.” I kid you not. That argument hasn’t helped me.

My wife has gone and penciled me in for a driveway haircut this week. She’s confident because she’s watched a YouTube segment, “How to cut a man’s hair.”

I hope that she’s not planning on using a bowl like my father did when I was 8 years old. By the time my third-grade classmates finished with me, I was almost scarred for life.

I’ve already been told by my new home barber, that I’ll have to tip in advance, if I know what’s good for the top of my head. Oh, the humiliation of it all.

If you do go on-line looking to purchase one of those popular home cut kits, they start at about the price of a good in-the-the-future haircut plus the tip. If you’re hoping to buy a home hair color product, one site did warn that buying a cheaper product could have your newly colored and rinsed hair turning green or red. I see that so-called coloring problem as a pretty inexpensive investment if you’ve always wanted to pass yourself off as being Irish.

A mid-April visit to our local hardware store to buy this season’s vegetable seeds led me to a really picked over, depleted seed packet display that shouted out to me that gardening supplies were soon going to be as scarce as toilet paper.

Gardening in Maine, you have to understand, isn’t a last moment event initiated by the early May racket of the spring peepers doing their leg-rubbing courting. The start of our gardening season traditionally begins with the take-down of the Christmas tree. A post-Christmas letdown is turned on its heels, when the new garden and seed catalogs can finally be brought out.

There might be a raging northeaster outside, but the want-to-be-gardener is immediately transported to late spring and the dream of the perfect vegetable garden. Despite the small size of your garden plot, you must approach the growing season with the same intensity of a midwestern farmer who works a 600-acre farm.

There are no crystal balls for those who profess to call themselves gardeners. So you have to calculate the hours of direct sun, soil composition, drainage, last season’s biggest duds, and the ravenous critters that are going to race you to your produce. Those zillion trees that our visitors so admire, house and also hide hungry deer, damn woodchucks, nibbling field mice, corn-loving raccoons, and our neighborhood moose.

By late January, you have this season’s garden sketch completed. Mid-April, like me, you’ll head to the store to buy your seeds. Then you begin to wait and then wait.

Gardening experts will advise you not to rush it and to wait for Memorial Day to safely start planting. Old-timers love to tell young gardeners and those transplants who recently moved up here from Massachusetts about 1816, “The year without a summer,” when Maine suffered killer frosts and snow every summer month, which led to near starvation.

You’re in trouble if you use the taking down of the front-door Christmas wreaths as your green light to get planting. Most of those wreaths, brown and pecked to death by angry blue jays, come down when it’s time to hang the Fourth of July flag. Any native will also tell you that the Fourth is the last real day of summer up here in Maine.

This year’s garden plantings during this COVID-19 spring, I believe, will be influenced by the growing uneasiness about our food supply chain. Shutdowns at many of our pork, chicken and beef packing houses in the Midwest and South have already led to spikes in the prices for our protein foods. My experience with the depleted garden seed supplies leads me to believe that others are also thinking along Victory Garden lines.

I haven’t yet fallen into the survivalist mindset, but this year I am going to plant with more of an eye on what garden produce, if the critters leave it alone, can go into the freezer or be canned and put up on the shelf. Maine is blessed with small farms, roadside stands, and farmers’ markets, but we all could be vegetarians by the end of the summer.

Despite this growing concern, I’m going to give up a little bit of space in the garden. For the first time, I am going to grow some sunflowers. They’ve always reminded of big, happy yellow faces, smiling and delighting in the sun’s warmth.

Every time I step into the garden to hoe weeds, water or pick, I want to look up and see those happy sunlit faces dancing in the wind. It will remind me of happier times.

For me, that will be my light at the end of the tunnel.

Tom Murphy is a former history teacher and state representative. He is a Kennebunk Landing resident and can be reached at [email protected]

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