Saturday, January 23, 2010

Chapter Thirty-Nine

Chapter 39

August 3rd – I wonder if what happened last night counts as our first fight? Rand really had a royal snit fit over those papers and ledgers from Mr. Barnes. It wasn’t all at me but I still felt like … oh, like I was on trial or something. I didn’t cry or nothing, not in front of him anyway, but I’ve wanted to off and on all day today.

I just never paid any attention to the money; it always felt like blood money. All I know is that it paid off all of my parents outstanding debts, took care of my medical bills, and was going to pay for me to go to college. And that a salary was paid to Aunt Wilma and Uncle Charlie for taking care of me and they would apply for any extra expenses. That’s all I knew, that’s honestly all I cared about knowing. That’s why I put up with Mr. Barnes’ lectures and stuff … so he could care about all the rest of it.

It wasn’t a giant sum of money. A lot of the accrued interest got lost in the recession, but none of the principle. By the time I got out of college the only thing I would have been able to claim is that I didn’t have to resort to student loans and there would have still been just enough left over to pay the property taxes for a couple of years. No luxuries or anything like that, not even a car unless I had opted for community college or local public university. Considering I’ve never learned to drive that never bothered me, I liked pedaling my way around since it helped me work off my feelings. But I guess when you look at it before that it was a good sized wad of money … was being the operative word.

The recession ate up the interest that Mr. Barnes had been able to get on the money at the beginning. When that happened he transferred it to “conservative” and “long term” type investments. I still have the stocks but they aren’t worth much anymore. He’d taken the money out of gold and silver certificates and transferred them to real metal back when the stuff had spiked but when things got so bad that the dollar didn’t mean much … neither did the pound, euro, yen, or anything else for that matter these days … the government, in an effort to try and do some type of inflation/deflation control … changed the law to where private citizens could no longer personally own precious metals for currency or investment; they also said that things like ETFs and certificates had no value at all since they were nothing but paper and claimed they were unbacked by actual metal. They gave people a grace period to have their precious metals willingly exchanged – including vintage coins and jewelry – “dollar for dollar” at whatever the going rate the metal was on that date. Anyone who failed to turn their metals in during that period was subject to confiscation and they could fight it out in the courts.

Mr. Barnes wrote that so few people were taking the government up on their “offer” in the beginning that a search and seizure practice went into effect. It started with safety deposit boxes and warehouses and went down as far as private homes. Many other countries followed suit and even the rich and famous found their normal “off shore” hideaways were no longer safe … if it wasn’t the US then it was the governments of other countries, often backed by their military. He’d been warned by some friends and did the exchange almost immediately. He beat the sudden pop of the gold bubble and I actually managed to break even despite the heavy losses on stocks.

Federal taxes ate up a good chunk of it too last year, but because of the attacks on Washington DC that happened and such a high loss of personnel and access to records, federal income tax is on hold. Things are a real mess in the financial sectors. Wall Street crashed worse than it ever has but it has come back some for now due to foreigners looking for a safe haven for their remaining money. When China and Russia got into it things started popping in China so bad that their financial control in so many countries has faltered badly. On top of that when people lost confidence in the Asian markets countries started defaulting on their loans from China and that house of cards collapsed.

I could probably go on and on about all the awful things that have happened, Mr. Barnes certainly did. All I know is that what I used to have barely exists these days. It might amount to something many years down the road but that is just conjecture. Florida, needing cash money so badly to continue operating and paying their national guard, took an unprecedented step of issuing bonds on future property taxes. You bought the bond and rather than cashing the bond in for currency you earn “credits” for paying off county and state property taxes … local taxes were not covered by the bond. “My dear, I’ve had many tell me that I was insane for buying these bonds on my clients’ behalves but I feel in my bones that they are worth the investment. The value of this investment will be determined by the change in value of the local currencies that we must deal with.”

Another note was included hastily scrawled in Mr. Barnes chicken scratch handwriting. I have no idea how a person who can talk so beautifully can have a handwriting that is so terrible. “My dear, I was just able to convert the last of your riskiest investments into these ridiculous ‘sand dollars.’ I was rather impressed with your young man. Judge Walker also spoke rather highly of his family. With your permission I will take these monies and invest them in hard goods as they become available. My nephews are rather resourceful young men who work in shipping. With luck you will meet them in the not too distant future. Goodbye my dear. May God Bless your union and keep you safe.”

Rand was so upset because he thought I was being careless about it all when I should have been grateful. I tried to tell him again and it only made it worse. Then I got mad and asked him if he had been so on top of things when he was my age and younger and he yelled he hadn’t been given a chance, there hadn’t been anyone looking out for his interest like Mr. Barnes had been looking out for mine. And I asked, a little louder than necessary, if this was one of the guy things he had been talking about because if it was the money he could have it since I had never wanted it. He stomped off, then I stomped off and didn’t want anything to do with anyone I was so miserable. I sure didn’t want him to see that he’d made me cry.

Then when I came back to the house he was really angry at me for going off in the dark and worrying him. And I snapped back at him that he’d taken a walk so I could too. A few other nasty things were said by both of us that I’d prefer not to record for posterity. I stayed downstairs to clean the last few dishes and he went upstairs, neither of us talking. It was only maybe ten minutes but by the time I got upstairs he had fallen asleep. I know he didn’t mean to now … I would have then if I hadn’t been nursing my hurts. He was still dressed and laying on the bed and one of Daddy’s books was on his chest.

I picked the book up and got in bed but it felt like hours before I could go to sleep. It felt like I had just shut my eyes when he started banging around asking me why I hadn’t woke him up last night. And it started all over again. Only this time we had to stop before his family arrived. The words stopped but my hurt didn’t.

I hate being fake. I absolutely hate it. I always break down after a while and wind up exploding in picture perfect HD and surround sound. But I managed to hold it in well passed lunch. There wasn’t time to pout. In the morning the guys were cutting wood and we prepped everything and started canning. In the afternoon the guys started working the mules in the easement and the gals finished up everything they had prepped.

We had five fires going because Alicia and Melly had brought their equipment and some jars. We made huge pots of applesauce and apple butter; apple juice, apple jelly and spiced apple jelly; apple chutney and apple catsup; apple cordial and a gallon of what Melly swears will be apple wine. We made a couple of apple pies for lunch and to drink I made apple lemonade by taking apple juice from tart green apples and mixing in a little powdered lemonade mix; had lots of pucker power so I added a little honey to sweeten it up.

Then we went at the pears. We started with an Apple-Pear Preserves mix and then went on to pear sauce and pear butter. Then we went on to plain canned pears and then since we had so many we doctored up about four different batches: cinnamon pears, mint pears, orange pears, and pineapple pears that I used a big can of pineapple juice that I hadn’t known what to do with. We also made pear relish, pear honey, pear preserves, pickled pears, brandied pears (this was Alicia’s idea), pear chutney, gingered pears, pear mincemeat (this was Melly’s mother’s recipe), and caramel spice pear butter.

But we weren’t through; with five fires going and all the helping hands we had you can really move some canning jars. The peaches and nectarines all got used interchangeably in recipes. If we had peach butter we also had nectarine butter. If we had pickled peaches we also had pickled nectarines. We canned them whole, in halves, in slices. We made conserve, preserves, jam, spiced butter, pie filling, and chutney.

Everyone got some of everything to take home but the majority went into the summer kitchen for Rand and I since they were our trees. After everyone packed up and left I was so tired I was shaking and I was hoping like crazy that Rand wouldn’t mind leftovers for dinner because I was just about at my limit.

I walked out to the barn and I was so tired I didn’t look before I walked in. I got a face full of hay where he’d been pitching some out that had gotten wet and was trying to sour in the heat. Then suddenly it wasn’t just hay; Rand had me and was brushing hay off me and hollering my name to ask me if I was OK.

“Rand! It was just hay! Why are you doing that? Rand, there went a button! How am I going to find it in all this mess?!”

“Kiri! Are you OK?!”

“I’m fine. What’s wrong? What did I do?”

“Do? You?! I had a pitchfork!! If I hadn’t seen you … inches … pulled my arm just in time … inches … don’t ever … inches …”

I was so smushed up against his sweaty chest I couldn’t even tell him I was fine. Hay was all in my hair and down my shirt and I even had to dig it out of my nose and ears. Well, I’m not going to write the rest but I was digging hay out of other places too by the time we’d made up.

“Kiri, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to go to sleep last night. I was just so tired. I don’t want to go to sleep angry ever again.”

“You probably will you know. I’ve tried to warn you about my temper.”

“Likely we’ll both get angry but no matter what from here on out we don’t go to bed that way. And about the money thing, I knew better. I listened to my parents fight about money almost to the day my mother died and my Dad was cussing about some bill he had gotten from the hospital when he had his heart attack and died. Moved over here and had to listen to Uncle George and Aunt Rachel do the same thing. It’s not a good way to live.”

“Rand, I never meant to be irresponsible. I just have never had much use for what Mr. Barnes took care of beyond what it could get me. If it took care of this house then good. If it could put me through college then good. Beyond that, I just didn’t care about it. Maybe I would have at some point but up to now I just haven’t. Maybe there is something wrong with me.”

“Nothing’s wrong with you. Don’t say that. I hate for you to think that that is what I think, ‘cause it isn’t. But from here on out, you do need to care. Do you have any idea what he was talking about as far as that last note he wrote?”

“Count me clueless. What Mr. Barnes thought important and what I thought important didn’t always match. He won’t … well, he won’t squander it. He’ll think he has invested in something that makes sense and more than likely it will … up to a point. But what it could be is anyone’s guess.”

“Well, I guess we’ll just have to see and be careful to stay on top of the rest of it. Your Mr. Barnes isn’t a young man Kiri. We both know how fast things can change. You need to start making independent verification of what he is telling you.”

“Can’t you do that?”

“I’ll help but this is your money Kiri.”

“It’s ours.”

“Yours.”

“Ours.”

“Kiri, it’s yours.”

“In the old days the guys always got a dowry and stuff to marry a girl.”

“Well this isn’t the old days and … no … don’t start that again.”

“Then stop fighting me on this.”

Rand thinks it has been settled his way and I know it has been settled mine; the money or whatever it is will be ours and that’s final.


August 4th – Nearly put my foot wrong again. I honestly didn’t think much of it. Rand didn’t celebrate his so I figured what was the since in celebrating mine. It wasn’t a marker to getting me what I wanted anymore; I already had everything I wanted.

When I told Rand that right when he was starting to tune up his mouth just kind of fell open; all of the guys’ mouths did. What’s the big deal anyway? Eighteen used to be important. Seventeen would have meant only one year more to go. I don’t need to worry about eighteen because I got things squared away early. It’s just another day now.

The day started out well enough. I was so happy that we fixed things yesterday that I really wasn’t paying much attention to what today was. I mean I knew but it wouldn’t have been the first time that things were too busy for it to get noticed by anyone else.

Clyde, Brendon, and this time Bill came with the boys and the first thing out of Bill’s mouth was, “Found you something your uncle calls a horse drawn hay tedder.” Rand asked, “You serious?!”

A hay tedder apparently moves freshly cut hay around until it has dried enough to be baled or stacked.

“Got word by way of Ron Harbinger if you can believe that. That old tractor dealership … the one that went to selling Kabotas several years back … well, the guy that used to own it is dead for sure now and his wife wants help moving into her parents’ house out on River Road but she don’t have anything to trade. Most people are wanting cash or groceries and she doesn’t have either. Harbinger talked her into letting them pick over the old equipment out back and she was more than happy to have the trade for that. Harbinger said there were a few pieces in there too heavy for his father’s horses so he’ll take the light ones and if your mules can pull then you’re welcome to the other ones.”

“What’s the catch?”

“We gotta go now and move that lady’s stuff. She wants it done as quick as possible because there’s been trouble out that way and she wants to go where her brothers are for protection.”

So Rand hitched up the mules and headed out with everyone. I wasn’t for sure whether they’d be back for lunch so I made apple beans that could go for our dinner in case they didn’t show up in time. Basically the dish is white beans baked with chopped apples, brown sugar, and the other stuff you put in baked beans. I also put a little bit of freeze dried ham dices in there and then made up two pans of corn bread. It wasn’t fancy but beans are filling if you doctor them up a bit and the bean broth is really good for spooning over cornbread.

While the beans were baking there were two recipes that I hadn’t been able to get to yesterday that I really wanted to try. The first one was Dutch Apple Pie Jam. My Momma had made this and given it as a gift in the holiday baskets she always made. First you need a pound of green apples. Just so happened I knew just where to find some as the Granny Smith wannabe in the orchard was putting them off by the bucketful. You had to peel and chop the pound of apples to make two cups of fruit and then you put it in your kettle with one-half cup of raisins, one cup of water, one-third cup of lemon juice, one teaspoon of ground cinnamon and one-quarter teaspoon of ground allspice. To this mess you need to add four and one-half cups of white sugar, one cup of firmly packed brown sugar, and one-half teaspoon of butter. Place the kettle over high heat and sitr all of that mess until it comes to a full boil and boil it hard for one minute, stirring constantly. Now at this point in recipe you are supposed to remove the kettle from the heat and immediately stir in a package of liquid fruit pectin but I didn’t have any. What I did have was Alicia’s recipe for homemade pectin so I stirred it in and removed the pan from the heat. Then I stirred and skimmed foam for five minutes to prevent floating fruit. After that it was just pour and seal as usual.

Homemade pectin is pretty easy and Alicia said she hadn’t even realized that you could buy it in the grocery until she took Home Ec in middle school. She told me, “Since I had never seen the inside of a grocery store except on TV you can imagine how much fun the other girls had with me that semester. That was one of the first time my parents had the county called on them. It was so embarrassing but because of it the school district wouldn’t approve my parents homeschooling Tommy and I. I would almost preferred if they had. We dressed different, talked different, acted different; poor Tommy had it worse than I did. Little boys can be cruel and it is worse because he is small for his age.”

She showed me how to start the pectin before she left yesterday and now I’ll be able to make some of the recipes I couldn’t before. You take two pounds of under ripe Granny Smith apples that you’ve washed and cut into eighths, peels and cores too. Then you put them in a pan with four cups of water bringing it all to a boil. You need to cut the heat back to medium (all I could do was move the pan back from the heat) and simmer for twenty minutes. Then you let it all cool. While it is cooling you line a bowl with dampened cheesecloth. When the mess in your pot is cool you pour the pulp and juice into the cheesecloth and then lift it up by the corners, tie a knot and then figure out a way to suspend the cheesecloth bundle over the bowl and allow it to drip into the bowl overnight. The next day, measure the apple juice and it pour into a large pot. Bring the liquid to a boil over high heat and cook until reduced by half. You should wind up with about one and a half cups of liquid and you need to use it right away. If we had refrigeration I could keep it up to four days or it would keep in a freezer for six months … I didn’t have either so I used it up finishing the batches of Apple Pie Jam.

What’s more, looking it up in some of my Momma’s notes … now that I had something to look for … I found out that you can do it with any kind of unripe apples (and crabapples too) and you can can it and seal it in jars for using out of apple season. I started several batches of it this afternoon. The summer kitchen looks just horrible but it is for a good cause and I’ll get it cleaned back up tomorrow.

The guys came back a little after lunch and they had all sweated through their shirts and pants but boy were they in high spirits. “Kiri! You won’t believe it! There was a hay tedder, a horse drawn mower, and some odds and ends you might be interested in. I got a block and tackle for the barn so I don’t have to keep moving those square bales up to the loft by hand. There was a box of burlap bags and we’re splitting them with Uncle George and we’re also giving him most of the barrels since they need more water storage than we do.“

I’m not sure about me being interested in block and tackle or in a hay tedder, although if they make Rand that happy then I’m all for them, but the burlap bags sound interesting though I don’t know what I’ll use them for yet and there was a bunch of Watkins brand stuff that I guess they were selling as a side line like Avon or something. Watkins brand stuff is all sorts of natural and organic stuff like for cooking and cleaning and things like that. Since I knew that Alicia would be bent at Brendon for not bringing any home I split everything between us.

It was while we were all sitting around eating that the subject of my birthday came up. Clyde is worried that he is too old for Melly – he’ll be thirty on his next birthday – and somehow or other they started talking about the ages and age difference in all of the recent marriages and those of their parents. “Well, Kiri is still the youngest I’ve heard of at 16.”

“Seventeen.”

“Sixteen.”

“I was sixteen when we got married but I’m seventeen today.”

“When did you …?”

“I told you. I’m seventeen today.”

Gee whiz. I don’t know what all the fuss and bother was about. After everyone left Rand and I worked it out but I keep running into these things I need to remember to do or not do to keep the peace. I told Rand I was sorry and that I didn’t mean to start a fight and he hugged me and told me I hadn’t started another fight but he was upset that he hadn’t done anything special. I told him we just got married a few days ago and what could be more special than that? Then he got all mushy and I barely got a chance to finish cleaning things up.

He’s snoring now and I don’t have the heart to wake him up. He only does it loud when he is really, really tired but I couldn’t sleep so I decided to sit down and finish this. I really like the new arrangement but his snoring gives me the giggles so bad sometimes my stomach hurts.


August 5th – When it rains it pours and that’s just about what it has been doing all day today. I haven’t been able to get a thing done, the house is damp, and now I’m going to be behind on my laundry. I’m also getting cranky from my monthlies. I was embarrassed to death trying to figure out how to tell Rand no … well … none of that stuff … but he was actually very understanding. He’s one surprise after another though I suppose I should know that by now I can talk to him about anything.


August 6th – Clear morning but hot. Nice Sunday services but no marriages this time. What we did find out was who was causing problems for us and I can tell you that I am upset. Things always seem to come back around and bite you right when you think they are all taken care of. I’m just exhausted from worrying and dealing with it today and Rand has told me let’s just go to bed. There isn’t anything to be done and we are both in need of some sleep.

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