Saturday, January 23, 2010

Chapter Forty-Three

Chapter 43

September 2ndThere … was … a … roach … in … my …. Kitchen!!!!! Argh! I am not a bug-o-phobe. I don’t want to carry on a conversation with them but they don’t scare me. However I sure don’t want them in the house, and so way on the other side of not when it comes to having them in my cooking space. Rand thinks I’m overreacting. He says, “It’s Florida, there are going to be bugs.” I know that … that doesn’t mean I want bugs in my kitchen. I’ve been so irritated today but I haven’t had the time or energy to do a blessed thing about it.

Yesterday I planted the next round of things into the garden. Let’s see, I planted beets, broccoli, brussel sprouts (don’t ask me why … yuck), cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, mustard greens, more onions, parsley, parsnips, radishes, and some weird things called burdock, arugula, chicory, and amaranth. Next month I’m going to plant some strawberries and an herb garden. Rand rolled his eyes when I asked him if he would help me create two new garden spaces but only in a kidding way … I think. I hate to ask for so much. Maybe I shouldn’t have, I just did it before thinking. I planned on doing all of this by myself when I first made it up here. Maybe I should go back to being more independent. I’m still not exactly sure how all of this marriage stuff is supposed to work.

Today I didn’t need much help. When I was planting I took a break and just happened to go by the dreaded grape arbor. It’s so stupid to be scared of a snake that is probably more scared of me than I am of it but I don’t care. I don’t like snakes and I had been avoiding the grape arbor. In her notes Momma said she’d never gotten a single grape off of the grape vines so I wasn’t thinking too much about it but low and behold … there were a whole bunch of grape clusters. I didn’t see any nasty ones so they must have just started ripening but you can’t fool around with grapes so that is what I canned today.

I made spiced grapes, grape conserve, grape catsup, spiced grape jelly, grape preserves, grape butter, and canned grapes like you get in fruit cocktail. I also put two trays of grapes to dry so that I could have more raisins. If I had to pick I would say that I liked the grape preserves best followed by the grape conserve. I had a little bit of conserve left over that wasn’t enough to fill a jar so I saved it and we had it on some vanilla wafers for dessert tonight.

Speaking of baked goods (the vanilla wafers were the tail end of some that I had gotten way back at the work day when I first met Missy) I think I’m going to set aside one of my “days” for baking. I think I’m going to change cleaning day to Thursday and make Friday baking day. I’ve been going over the notes I made at the ladies’ social and I think I’ve got all of the different suggested ways of making yeast into four basic recipes:

1.Starter Yeast. In the evening boil enough potatoes to make one pint when mashed very fine. Save potato water and add enough more water to make three pints, then add 1 tablespoonful salt and 1/2 cup sugar and 1 cake compressed yeast, put in the potatoes and stir well, cover and let rise over night. In the morning save 1 pint for the next baking or make fresh each time, as desired; mix stiffer with flour than with other yeast.

2.Potato Yeast. In the morning, boil and mash three potatoes. Add 1/4 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of flour and 1/2 tablespoonful of salt; stir well together. Pour over this mixture 1/2 pint of boiling water and stir it; then add 1/2 pint of cold water and stir that; then 1/2 cup of yeast and keep it in a warm place. When it is risen well and rounds up to the top of the dish stir it down. Do so several times during the day. Then it may be strained and put into a jar or jug, and kept in a cool place. The bread made with this may be made with milk.

3.Beer Yeast. For 1 Gallon of yeast, take 12 medium-size potatoes, pare and boil them until done. With the water off these, scald 3 heaping tablespoonfuls of flour, 3 tablespoonfuls of sugar, and 3 scant tablespoonfuls of salt. Mix the potatoes, mashed, with this,, then fill gallon with cold water. When cold enough, add 1 cake of magic yeast. Let stand in cool place. Take 1 pint of mixture for 1 loaf of bread.

4.Hop Yeast. Take 1 quart of hops, boiled, and strained, 1 cup of sugar, 1/2 cup of salt, 1/2 cup of lard, 2 large tablespoonfuls of ginger, 4 potatoes boiled and mashed and enough yeast to raise it. Let stand over night, then mix enough flour and corn meal to make crumbly.

That doesn’t include something called a Herman starter (which sounds very strange to call a food by a person’s name) or the Amish bread starter. The Herman starter is more like a regular sourdough and the Amish starter is a starter but mostly for sweet breads. I’d like to try them all but that would be irresponsible since I don’t know how much flour I’m going to have. Oh, I have loads of unground wheat so I suppose I could try them all but flour that I don’t have to go to the trouble of me grinding myself I have less than a hundred pounds left. It seems like that would go a long way but it won’t. I’m using bread to try and give Rand more carbs while he is working so hard and it seems to have helped a little bit. He is still a lot thinner than he was when I first met him and he gets really tired by the end of the day, but I don’t think he is losing as much weight as he was.

I know Uncle George is fretting about this some from Alicia. Not just specifically about Rand but in general about all of his chicks. And now that both Alicia and Missy are gonna have babies he is really fretting. He doesn’t want to cull too many from his animals but he’ll butcher every one of them before he sees any of his kids go hungry no matter the consequences later. I said something to Rand today and he got a little snappy saying that he knew and that he was going as fast as he could prepping the fields for the oats they want to plant this month. I sure didn’t mean to come off like I was complaining; I just wanted someone to talk to about it. It feels like I’m always doing something wrong lately. Rand doesn’t say anything but it just feels that way.

Sometimes I wonder … I guess there is no sense in wondering if I’m not going to ask him. I do wonder though if maybe he isn’t sorry he married me sometimes. I made really good grades in school and all of my classes were college level because of the IB program but still, I can’t seem to get my mouth and brain working together so that I sound like I’m halfway as smart as they used to claim I was. On some days it just doesn’t seem like I can find anything that we can talk about. It used to not be this hard. I wonder what I’m doing so wrong?


September 3rd – I just don’t know what I’m doing wrong. The day started out pretty good. We got up and I fixed doctored up grits with sausage TVP and cheese mixed in. We made it to the church service on time and I went to say hello to Momma O and take her our contribution to the “Stone Soup” that was today’s fellowship theme. I had a bunch bouillon so I took a cupful and some mixed dried veggies to toss in there.

Then we went and sat with the Crenshaws who were all there except for Bill and Missy who had volunteered to stay home and watch the place. Everyone was a little uncomfortable because a couple of soldiers from the RC had asked if it was alright if they came to services since their Chaplain had died during the riot and hadn’t been replaced yet. I didn’t pay them too much attention.

After the service Rand just left and went to talk to Mitch, Mr. Henderson and some other men and I was at loose ends. The rest of the Crenshaws seem to be talking to people they knew and I didn’t want to intrude. I was about to go see if Momma O needed some help when I heard from behind me, “Kiri?”

I turned around and it took me a second to recognize him with his hair cut so short and in uniform. “Ram?”

“I thought I was seeing things but then I remembered you guys had a place up this way. Are your aunt and uncle here?”

Ram was several years older than me and had been one of the foster boys that lived with Aunt Wilma and Uncle Charlie when I first came to live with them. He was one of the few that didn’t have problems … he was there because he couldn’t seem to stay out of trouble. It didn’t take us long to get caught up.

“Did you go to live with your grandmother?”

“Yeah, but Abuela died and my uncle didn’t really want to support me. He thought I was leading his sons into trouble and to be honest I was. I got caught driving for some guys that were real trouble and the judge gave me the choice of jail time or joining the military. I picked the military and despite everything it has been the best thing for me. But, I can’t believe you said you are married. You’re only … what … sixteen?”

“Seventeen. Things are … different from the way I expected them to be but like you, I’m not sorry I made the decision I did. Rand is like the best friend I’ve ever had. I don’t know where I’d be without him.”

“Friend? What happened to the spitfire that threatened Cal Erickson with a baseball bat if she ever caught him peeking into her bedroom again?”

“You would remember that. Ram, I like who I am now better than who I was then. Some of it is just life but some of it is Rand. I don’t know how to explain it or what to call it. It just is.”

“Yeah. I wish you could meet Sherri, same thing for me. I don’t know what she sees in me most of the time.”

“Sherri?”

“Yeah, look … for old time sake, could you introduce me to the Pastor? He was nice enough to not mind us just showing up and I’d like to say thank you but don’t want him to feel like we’re all pouncing on him. We’re not allowed to go anywhere not in uniform and I don’t want to set people off around here thinking we’re bothering the preacher.”

“Sure. Pastor Ken is pretty cool. And I don’t think you could intimidate him. He’s seen a lot. And if you are going to be around for any amount of time you’ll want to meet Mr. Henderson and Judge Walker too. Oh yeah, and Momma O … you’ll definitely need to be introduced to Momma O.”

“Uh … “

Before he could go all shy boy on me I drug him over to Pastor Ken who called over the Judge and Mr. Henderson.

“Y’all, this is Ram Diaz …Ramiro Diaz actually, but we always called him Ram. Ram why don’t you introduce your friends around and I’ll go see if Momma O needs anything.”

“Wha … ?!”

“Paybacks Ram, paybacks. As I recall Cal wasn’t the only one I was upset with that particular day.”

I left Ram standing there with his mouth hanging open and his friends laughing. The Live Oak men joined in as soon as they had the joke explained to them. I went over to Momma O to fill her in. She can’t get around as well as she used to and I know she hates not knowing what is going on. She asked me all I knew about Ram and I told her; no reason not to. I didn’t have a clue about Ram’s friends but I figured she’d pin someone else down for the information later.

I looked around for Rand and saw him over by the wagon so I went over to see if we needed to leave but when I got there I wish I hadn’t.

“Rand do we … “

“Who was that?”

“Who was … ? Oh, Ram Diaz. Crazy meeting someone I haven’t thought about in a long time. I introduced him to Pastor Ken, Mr. Hender …”

“Yeah, I saw. What did he want?”

“Huh? Just to say hello and ask for an introduction to Pastor Ken. Where did you go? I wanted you to meet … “

“Why?”

“Why what?”

“Stop answering my questions with a question.”

“I’m … I’m sorry. I just …”

“Yeah, whatever. Are you ready to go or do you want to hang out with your friend?”

“Rand … “

“Yes or no.”

“I’m ready if you are, just let me go tell Alicia … “

“I already told everyone goodbye. If you’re going just get in the wagon.”

I still don’t know what I did. I tried to ask Rand a couple of times what was wrong and he just said, “Nothing.” But the way he said nothing meant that it was something and that I must be blind not to see it. I think maybe he is embarrassed of me.


September 4th – I am so sick of plums I can’t stand it. If I wasn’t afraid that the one plum that I didn’t can was the one plum that we needed I’d give every last one of them to the chickens.

I’d give these stupid chestnuts to the chickens too if they would eat them. Instead I sent them by the bucketful back with Uncle George for the pigs. The only way Momma talked about preserving chestnuts is in the refrigerator or freezer. I found in one of Daddy’s files though how to can them. I had to roast them on a sheet pan and then while they were still hot put them in pint jars and pressure can them and it was different from how you usually do other stuff … only five pounds of pressure for ten minutes. I did two canner loads and then just didn’t feel like doing any more. Maybe tomorrow.

Or maybe not. Right now I don’t feel like doing much of anything. Rand seemed to get better after he saw Uncle George and Mr. Henderson after lunch but I just don’t care very much for some reason. I’m tired and I’ve got a headache again and I’m going to bed and maybe I’ll get up tomorrow and maybe I won’t.


September 5th – I feel lousy. I was only grouching when I said I might not get up but I can’t seem to …

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