Monday, January 25, 2010

Chapter Fifty-One

Chapter 51

October 14th – Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes. Red tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, yellow pear tomatoes. But I’m not going to complain; yesterday Rand caught me sitting down in the middle of the garden eating a tomato just like an apple. I thought he was going to laugh at me but instead he smiled and sat down in the dirt with me and took a bite out of the tomato I was eating. We sat there just looking around.

I know that sounds foolish but it was just … just perfect. The garden is so pretty; all frilly green with flowers and fruits. It was warm but not hot and there was just enough of a breeze to keep the bugs from taking over the world. God helped us to take advantage of what He gave us. I don’t think I would have appreciated this if things weren’t like they are. I know there is a lesson in there but I’m just too tired to write it out so that it makes any kind of sense at all.

Yesterday Brendon, Uncle George, and Rand met Ram up at the tree nursery in Lee. They came back with Uncle George’s wagon full of container plants and bare root tree seedlings. The trees they brought home included a couple of serviceberries, some red chokeberry, pawpaws, hickories, chinquapins, redbuds, dogwoods, mayhaws, yellow hawthorns, persimmons, cedar trees, poplar trees, magnolias, crabapples, mulberries, Chickasaw plums, azaleas, rhododendron, elderberries, sassafras, snowballs, blueberries, pindo palms and a bunch of pine trees. They were so excited and I could have just cried. I remember all the work of planting all the trees with Momma and Daddy by hand. We planted (and replanted when a seedling wouldn’t make it from one year to the next) thousands of bareroot seedlings by sticking a trenching shovel in the ground, opening up a slit hole, dropping the bareroot in the hole and then stepping to close the hole. Brother or I took turns coming in behind Momma and Daddy with a watering can if the day was dry so that the little roots wouldn't dry out before any air pockets could seal. Air pockets around tree roots equal dead seedling.

So while Rand went off to dig more post holes I collected the dirt he would pull up and used it to fill containers to save the bareroot trees in until it was planting time; that would be January and February for most everything though I remember planting pines as late as March one year. Uncle George took most everything with him. With no orchard this was a chance for him to have some edible fruit at his place in a few of years. He also needs to plant a woodlot as all he has is pasture.

I was so tired yesterday and my hands so sore from carrying bucket upon bucket of dirt that I just couldn’t pick up a pen to write last night. And, I hate to say it, but this may be one of my last journal entries if I can’t figure out some way to fix things. I didn’t realize how many pens that I have been going through. I went digging around for a new one and that was when I discovered the problem. We’ve got a couple dozen pens and a gross of pencils but that’s it. Who would have thought writing utensils would be our first major loss? There aren’t any more to be had. Rand had a lot to say about “built in obsolescence” and things that run out before they are supposed to. He wasn’t blaming me, he knows how writing things down helps my feelings, but he was as upset as I was about potentially going back to prehistoric style oral history and nothing else.

Tomorrow we are going to the Harbinger place to help with the barn. I’ll admit to being a little anxious about it but it was my idea. Saying it is the Christian thing to do sounds like a copout but that’s true; there is a secret part of me that wants to prove to everyone that might be thinking it that Rand and I don’t have any regrets and that we are just fine … better than fine. And maybe I want to prove that to Julia specifically. I know it is petty; maybe I’m a little insecure even though Rand never has given me a reason to be.


October 16th – Wow, yesterday was … well, it sure was something else. Mostly good but some not so good though I won’t mention it to Rand who seems more at ease than he has been in a while, at least about all that stuff that happened with Julia. I guess he must have found some closure or something.

Rand and I talked about it and we decided to only take some commercially canned veggies to throw in the communal stew pot. It would have been easy for me to take something fresh out of the garden but to be honest we are still hesitant to let people know exactly what we have. The raiders are only one of the problems we could have as the weeks continue to creep by. Hungry people … hungry parents … are desperate people and I’m worried about that whole friends turning into enemies thing that could happen.

I did take two bushels of apples but kept them hidden under a blanket and some hay until we got the feel for how many people were going to show up. If only a few families showed up we’d have enough for everyone. If too many people showed up I’d either keep them out of sight or say they were for the children and/or pregnant women.

We started out just as soon as the first streaks of light brushed the sky. It was seventy degrees so I threw on a flannel shirt on top of my work clothes. Rand laughed at me but I'm used to Tampa weather; seventy degrees is still cold.

Both Rand and I were armed plus I had my screwdriver and my wire cutters. You just never know when that kind of stuff might come in handy. I also had a pencil and a pack of index cards to write recipes and tips down on so that I could file them and continue Momma’s collection. The index cards are going to go the way of the writing utensils soon too only it is possible I may have figured out a solution to both.

The Harbingers live off of River Road but back deep in there. Ron’s grandfather bought the land back in the 50s and slowly built up a nice farm that paid for itself while he pursued a living running a small hardware store in town. Ron’s father was always the primary farm manager but when Ron's grandfather died without a will the Harbinger brothers - Ron's dad and uncles - started feuding, all of them claiming that their dad said he meant to leave the farm to them alone. It wasn’t until the other two brothers died that Jared Harbinger was able to take control of the farm free and clear by that time though the once prosperous family had eaten up a lot of the inheritance in legal fees and changing times. Jared inherited a mess but amazingly enough had turned his fortunes around only to run into the end of the world. Jared’s preoccupation with the family’s financial and social status left little time to take care of his family’s spiritual status. For whatever reason God gave Ron Harbinger the second chance he didn’t give his brother Fred.

We weren’t the first people to show up but we weren’t the last either. In fact there had to have been at least two dozen families there. Many of them came from the River Road side of town but there were people from all over; even Mr. Henderson, Tia Cia, Cassie, and Mitch Peters were there. Cassie was very subdued compared to any other time I’ve seen her. She stayed that way the entire time and only spoke to me to appear polite. That’s fine, I know I’m not the one that got her in trouble; she did it to herself.

Julia was gray-faced. I found out later that her father had hoped seeing her would help but her mother said some very nasty things where others could hear. I never saw Mrs. Winston but I heard her a few times cackling like a mad woman. If she hasn’t had a breakdown of some type she’s the best actress in history.

I did like Rand asked and tried not to strain my back. It’s close to being healed but it still pinches pretty good every once in a while. I don’t know how it happened but I wound up helping by picking up fallen nails and putting them in a bucket to be straightened out so that they can be reused. Ron apparently had a hole in the pocket he’d been dropping nails into and every step he would take one or two would fall out. I kept bending over to pick them up but for every one I would pick up he would drop two more.

“Ron. Yo Ron. Ron! Hey … RON!!!”

“Huh?” I finally caught up to him, stuck my finger in the pocket of the carpenter’s apron he was wearing and showed him the hole and the bucket I was filling up with his dropped nails. It just caught us both as funny and he snorted with laughter. No big deal. He shifted the apron so that he could drop the nails in the other pocket and we both went about our business. Ron might not be such a bad guy after all. Apparently genuine epiphanies are pretty life changing.

Right before lunch I stopped working and then went to the outhouse. When I came out Julia was standing there.

“You can’t have him.”

“Uh …. ?”

“Don’t play innocent with me. You can’t have him.”

“Please tell me you aren’t talking about Rand.”

“Rand? No! Ron … and you know it. You can’t have him.”

“Julia, don’t get all … whatever. I barely know Ron.”

“You didn’t know Rand either.”

“Hey! Look, whatever problems you and Rand had weren’t my fault.”

“Why do you keep talking about Rand?!”

“You’re the one that brought him up!”

“No I didn’t. I told you you couldn’t have Ron!!”

“Why would I want Ron when I have Rand?!”

“Well … well … you can’t have him. Ron is mine.”

Yeah, I know it sounds stupid. I’m putting it down to hormones … hers and mine. And to add insult to injury Ron came around the porch and caught us acting like a couple of second graders. What got me is Julia got this really scared look on her face and then burst into tears and fell into Ron’s arms. He just stood there holding her and I could barely understand what she was saying she was talking so fast. Then I caught “you don’t understand” and then she tears off and runs inside the house.

I asked, “Um, isn’t this the part of the story where you run after her to make it all better?”

“I’ve tried that, it doesn’t work. She either trusts me or she don’t. I’m done fightin’ about it. I married her. Why she can’t let that be enough I don’t know. She wants stuff I can’t give her. She’s going to have to learn to be content with that. If she could maybe we could go forward instead of constantly playing this same old song over and over again.”

Despite what he said he sighed real deep and stepped up on the porch and went inside. I’m glad Rand and I worked our problems out, I can’t imagine living the life Julia and Ron are living.

Lunch and clean up was the end of the work day, with so many people there the job went super quick. I remembered the apples right as people started packing up. There was enough for the adults to all have one and the few kids there were there to have two.

About halfway home Rand and I both started getting anxious. You just never know these days but everything was fine and Woofer and Fraidy were sharing a rabbit they got from someplace. Farm animals one, garden destroyers zip.

The wind picked up yesterday around four o’clock and blew all night bringing with it a much cooler day today and the cool just keeps coming. I’m sitting here with an afgan over my legs relaxing after a long day on my feet. Two more apple trees started coming in and I canned 36 quarts of juice and sliced a new batch to go into the dryer. The wood pile is going down faster than I expected it to. As soon as it cools down I’m going to start canning on the princess to see if the stove is more economical about the wood. I hate that Rand has to chop wood and dig fence post holes because it is such hard work.

Tomorrow Brendon and the boys are coming over but I don’t know if any of the others will be with them. They and Rand will be planting the rye, triticale, and soft red wheat. If there is time Rand also wants to break ground over in the eighty next to us and plant some rye and triticale there as well. The wheat he is going to hold back in case we need it for bread. I hope it doesn’t get that ergot stuff Ram talked about; Rand tells me that is some bad stuff and was a real problem during the Middle Ages before people realized what was going on.

Tomorrow I’m going to can some mustard greens and collard greens. I’ll deal with more of the apples too but I’m thinking of sending a couple of three bushels home with Brendon. I’ll take care of what else needs to be picked from the garden too. There has got to be a better way than having everything come ready at once like this … Rand said I can do something called “succession planting” where I plant something, wait a few days or a week and then plant more of it, so on and so forth until the planting season is over with. I might have to try that next season.

Tomorrow I’m going to pretend the guys are rabbits and feed them a huge salad with all sorts of stuff thrown in there. That ought to help my workload. I offered to help with the planting but Rand got that stubborn look on his face and said that’s what Brendon was coming over for.

The other thing I’m going to try tomorrow is to make my own ink. Rand brought back a few of the pecans that are starting to fall. If we didn’t have to plant tomorrow we’d go over and get them before the squirrels do. I asked Mr. Coffey and Momma O what they used for ink and they looked at me and laughed and asked if I thought they’d lived back in the dark ages. A woman named Matilda Ledbetter said, “Well, I’m older than both of you and I do happen to recall my Daddy not having the money to buy us ink for the school inkwell one year. He made ink out of pecan shells.”

She told me how it was done so I’m going to try it. Someone else told me you can make an ink out of fermented pokeberries in fact that is what a lot of soldiers used during the American Civil War and it is also what the US Constitution is supposed to have been written with.


October 17th – If it isn’t one thing it is another. Ram came by real quick to say goodbye. His whole … whatever you call it … base I guess … has been redeployed further down the west coast of the state. The only thing he was free to say was thank you to Rand – apparently Rand had agreed to make room for Sherri if anything happened to Ram – and to warn Rand against trusting anyone new that might bring in new units into the area.

“You did not hear this from me. I’m not even sure if Henderson would be able to pick this up from radio chatter yet. Cuba and Venezuela have some friends that are in a very bad way and might be interested in the natural resources to be collected from our country … and they’re getting mighty cold and hungry right now and may set something in motion we’ll all have to deal with. Also, new troops brought into this area – if any – might have a completely different way of doing things and completely different directives from what we had. I haven’t heard but … just … just be watchful and get yourself situated and keep what you’ve got to yourself for as long as you can manage it.” He sighed like an old man and then continued, “Most of us hoped we’d have the winter to regroup and maybe it would knock the stuffing out of the biggest players that might think of standing against us. I’m not sure that we’ll get that break after all now. Every day the play book is getting rewritten. And … and you two be careful. I don’t know for sure … I won’t even guess and won’t admit to this if you say something to someone else … the players in this Administration seem to keep changing. Everybody wants to be in control but no one wants to take responsibility. I honestly don’t know what is going on. We’re getting all sorts of mixed signals from command. Something’s up … but only God knows what it is.”

He left and I’m honestly not sure if I’ll ever see him again. As he left he leaned over and whispered something that put the weirdest look on Rand’s face. Rand wouldn’t say anything about it. We walked Ram to the main gate and then watched as he headed towards US90 to get back to Lee before dark to help Sherri finish packing the few things they had managed to accumulate.

We walked back to the house and finished our chores. I put a dinner of greens, beans, and corn pone on the table but Rand ate with a pensive look on his face. After we put the animals up and it got dark Rand told me to go in the house and not worry if it was a little bit before he came back in. Oh no, that didn’t raise my suspicions at all. Of course not.

An hour passed and right before my nerves snapped he stepped inside with a big box in his arms. He took it straight up to the dormer room and I followed, picking up a piece of paper that had fallen out.

R,

I don’t know how much good this will do you. I’ve never worked in comm but this was part of a set up that was used for local and some long distance back and forth. I think all the parts are here, how you power it up will be your concern. I wouldn’t even tell Henderson you have this, will be a good way to fact check what he lets out.

Proud to have met you and called you friend … and take care of the brat, she can be a handful.

RD

It’s a radio of some kind. Rand says it is an amateur radio set up. He’s never operated one. My dad has some notes on that type of thing but the main problem is going to be powering it and having some kind of antenna. That’s something I know nothing about and apparently Rand doesn’t know much more. Not being able to ask people is a problem. We’ll have to figure it all out on our own. I could see the wheels turning in Rand’s head the whole time until he finally went to bed.

It only got up to sixty-two degrees today and I’m freezing. Rand and I threw an extra blanket on the bed but with the way things are in the dormer room we realize once it gets too much cooler at night we’re going to need to move downstairs so that we can have the heat from the fireplace. It’s too cold to sit here any longer even if I do have a million things to write about. I’m off to bed.

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