March 25th – It’s been a full week since I last had time to sit down and write anything. If it hasn’t been one thing it’s been another. We have a nasty cold running through the house. Austin came down with it first so more than likely he picked it up from some of the boys at the last swap meet and Rand and I got it a couple of days later. As a matter of fact one of the reasons why I’ve stopped long enough to write is because Pastor Ken came by and basically said either I willingly got off my feet or he would order me off my feet. Rand overheard what he said and that’s all she wrote but only because Rand has learned how to handle me. I know he is handling me and he knows that I know he is handling me and also knows the only reason he can get away with that is because I let him. He gives me the pathetic puppy face. He looks so serious sometimes I can’t help but laugh and give in.
Sunday we took the wagon over to Uncle George’s and visited with them for a little while. Laurabeth was a little overwhelmed and I flat out told her that if it was too much I’d ask Rand to leave early. That seemed to draw her up short and she said, “No. Don’t do that. I just … all the noise and sometimes … someone is always watching me and it makes me feel even crazier than I already am. I understand why they’re doing it but I still don’t like it. I hate being stared at. Having more people do it just makes it worse.”
“So long as you’re sure. I hate being stared at too and understand about that. Look,” I said checking to see if anyone was listening. “Um, you wouldn’t happen to mind me asking you some … um … questions would you?”
“About … about what?”
I finally screwed up my courage and said, “Baby stuff.”
“Baby stuff? You mean like … oh … you mean like taking care of them and things like that?”
Relieved she understood I said, “Yes, please. Alicia seems to be living in her own world and only blushes when she thinks anyone is going to talk about that stuff. Missy … well, you know Missy. She’d answer my questions but then she’d be the one making me blush. I just want to talk to someone that has some common sense and won’t make me feel as dumb as a stump.”
For some reason she thought that was funny and it was the first time in a long time I heard her laugh. It wasn’t much of one but it was definitely a laugh. “Sure. Come into the bedroom and if anyone asks I’ll just say I’m changing Stevie. He needs it anyway. So, what did you want to ask?”
“How do you do … that …feed the baby I mean.”
“Oh. Well, they do most of the work. You just have to be careful they don’t make you raw.” My eyes must have gotten big because she grinned and went into more detail of what she meant. After a while we were comfortable enough that I could ask her how she was doing, really doing.
“there are days when I feel like I’m going to be OK and days that I … don’t. How did you … you know … live after your family died like that?”
I was very careful with my answer. I wanted to be honest but I didn’t want to scare her either. “I had a hard time for a while. People … I didn’t have any family support. My ‘aunt and uncle’ were really my dad’s cousins and did the best they could I suppose but, for me it wasn’t good enough. So I floundered around trying to put one foot in front of the other and I made a lot of mistakes along the way. I learned a lot but to be honest, I’m still undoing some of the junk that I tied myself up with. The one thing above all others that has always stuck with me is that …” and it still choked me up to talk about it. “…my parents and brother loved me. They wouldn’t have wanted for me the kind of hell I put myself through. It took a long time for me to see that. Maybe longer because I didn’t have anyone that actually sat me down and explained that to me.”
Laurabeth was looking out the window. “Jonathon loved you. And he was a guy with lots of commonsense. And you know that he’s in Heaven with the baby. I can’t say what your future holds Laurabeth but I know that whatever it is you can know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jonathon wouldn’t hold you living a good life against you. In fact, that’s exactly what he would have wanted you to do in his memory.”
“Kiri, do you think … I mean … do you think that Ron can say the same thing about … about Julia? He doesn’t show it but I think in some ways he’s … Kiri, sometimes I think the only reason he remembers to breathe is because he has it in his head that he’s going to look after Stevie. And maybe after me too. I think he’s more tortured than … than … I’m scared for him sometimes. He’ll read to me out of the Bible when I’m feeling really bad but it’s like … like he won’t let himself hear the Words or feel the comfort. I’m afraid it is because … he doesn’t think he deserves them.”
Yeah, that gave me lots to think about. After Austin went to bed that night , early because he was tired though we didn’t know he was just starting to get sick too, I talked it over with Rand. I could tell he was listening but at the same time he was thinking that it was just “women talk” and us guessing when it came to Ron’s state of mind.
Next day started the cold for Austin and by the end of the day Rand and I weren’t feeling too chipper either. Cold or not, Sparkleberry Ranch still needed tending. Rand worked around the house laid down when he got too tired. Austin I kept in bed for a few days and he mostly just slept. It gave me time to work at my own pace in the garden and I could tell we were just about to head into a period of some heavy dehydrating and canning going on. Tuesday I planted a bunch more rows of dried beans. Wednesday I got some sewing done but not as much as I wanted to. The treadle just hurt my head too much, I had a bad sinus headache, so I sat out on the front porch and did some mending and crocheted a small lace edge on a sun bonnet for the baby.
Thursday I should have been cleaning the house but I just didn’t feel like being inside. Austin and Rand didn’t either but they, like me, didn’t have a whole lot of energy for things that weren’t absolutely essential. Rand did do some hunting but the game isn’t quite as sparse as it used to be but you can still tell the area has been over hunted. There probably wouldn’t be an edible game animal in the area if bullets weren’t getting scarce enough that people are holding onto the ammo they have.
What I did on Thursday was putter around in my flowers. I planted the caladium bulbs under some of the trees our front of the house. I planted impatiens in the shadiest flower beds on the far side of the house, but off to the side so that the lantana wouldn’t overwhelm them. I sprinkled phlox and gallardia seeds all over the property since they tend to do best when you leave them alone. The marigolds that I had started in the greenhouse got interplanted with rows of growing things out in the garden. And my daylily bed got spruced up and muched.
Friday it was back to serious work since late in the day on Thursday, after I had planted the marigolds, I started harvesting the English peas. Not enough have come in for me to can yet, that’ll be next week, but we had creamed peas for lunch yesterday and it was just right for everyone’s appetite.
Today has been laundry. I still don’t feel one hundred percent but I couldn’t put off washing the sheets or Rand’s and Austin’s work clothes. All three of us also took good baths and scrubbed away what we could of the lingering cold. It is still a little chilly at night and I didn’t want any wet heads to bring the colds back full force.
Tomorrow is a church service Sunday. I debated on going but Rand says he needs to so that he can get his work schedule for the next couple of weeks arranged. We have a lot of our own work to do as well in the coming weeks. We will be planting a large field of peanuts and we hope to harvest all the grains that we planted back in October.
I’m going to wear a new dress to church tomorrow. It might be a really girly thing to do but I just can’t wear a pair of old, unbuttoned overalls and a flannel shirt for people like Momma O and Mrs. Withrow to see. I tried it on tonight thinking I would need to take it in a little on top and doggone if I haven’t grown even more up there. This is ridiculous. I feel like I’ve been taken over by an alien.
March 26th – So much for a calm day. In the middle of Ken’s sermon one of Mr. Henderson’s men came in and said there had been an attack on the military compound. The attack had been repelled but the raiders – or whatever they were – were dispersing into the community. Everyone packed up as quickly as possible and headed back to their places to make sure that nothing happened.
We saw some strangers going by on horses but just because they were strangers didn’t mean they were the raiders. One of them was a very capable looking woman but again, that didn’t necessarily mean that they were raiders. On the other hand we didn’t take any chances. Mitch Peters came along with a few men and “escorted” the strangers out of the area just to make sure they didn’t get waylaid by people getting the wrong idea.
We are all locked up tight and have our bowl of popcorn to enjoy. My kitchen counters are full of things to that need to be dried and canned tomorrow. We’ve learned the hard way not to leave anything in the garden. Gonna be a busy day tomorrow.
March 28th – Yesterday was a nightmare. Just a complete and total nightmare. There was a mouse in my kitchen. I got up and went in there to start breakfast and there was the little beasty sitting on my counter eating my English peas!!! It was horrible. I screamed loud enough to be heard in Columbia County.
After all the ruckus died down Rand nearly fell over laughing. I still don’t think it is very funny but he said it was like one of those “Funniest Home Video” shows. I screamed and they came running and when they got there I was running around the kitchen with a broom yelling, “Kill it! Kill it!!” Woofer had come running too and was knocking over chairs and baskets trying to catch the little evil vermin for me. We made a bigger mess catching the mouse than the mouse had on his own.
I emptied every cabinet and hauled everything out of the kitchen until I realized that the cover had come off the floor drain and that is how the nasty little thing must have gotten in. Evil I tell you. Fraidy is moving back inside and I don’t care what she has to say about it.
Actually she has been a good sport after having a mild conniption after first. We put the kittens in a box in the spare room and since we haven’t bothered them since seems satisfied. Woofer was happy to share his bowl of leftovers with Momma Fraidy, I think he was lonesome for her. I’m not so worried about our little cat family either.
I hope that is the only mouse that has come in. Just to be on the safe side I’ve been sprinkling cayenne pepper seeds and mint and spearmint in all the cabinets.
March 29th – More baby sewing. I felt all mushy while I was doing it. The baby is getting more and more real. I mean he’s been real before now but it seems that as far away as his being born is, it still isn’t time enough for me to get everything done before he gets here.
Rand was gone all day today. He and Austin went to do some mowing and tomorrow they are going to go plow two fields … one in the morning and one in the afternoon. We aren’t the only ones preparing to plant. Mr. Coffey is going to plant a couple of really big fields of peanuts and cut his production of sorghum accordingly. We still have sorghum left over from his last harvest and hopefully it will last us a while longer yet.
I wonder what that is going to do for its trade value at the swap meets? Right now there is plenty if you are willing to trade for it so while it has a high trade value there isn’t any shortage. Next season that could be different depending on how many are growing sorghum for their personal use. I heard on Sunday at the dinner table that the people in their co-op (I’m kind of at a loss what else to call them since the all tend to throw their work together on big projects like this) are going to be planting a big field of it. In addition to the seed heads for people food as well as animal feed, and the stalks for the juice to make syrup with, they were talking about trying to use the remaining biomass in ethanol production. It might not net them much ethanol but they could build a central refrigeration unit or fill a tractor engine.
Rand started our ethanol still up a few days ago. He’s starting with a traditional mash made of corn, yeast … well, all the stuff you’d use to make moonshine. A few more days and we’ll have something … but we’ll have to see if it will actually burn clean enough to operate an engine. One of Rand’s recent acquisitions has been several plastic fuel drums. Once he figures out if this works, he’ll start storing the ethanol first for our own use, then for trade.
Another project that Rand is working on getting the parts for is a biomass briquette production set up. It made my head hurt trying to understand what he was so excited about. Mr. Coffey, his son, and Rand were talking about it before the church service on Sunday. Basically they plan on taking dried biomass … like peanut shells, sawdust, wood chips, soy bean husks, etc. … and then you process and press the stuff into a hollow cylinder using a screw press. The briquettes can then be used to operate a steam engine. The problem is that you have to have fuel to operate the briquette maker that they’ve designed (Mr. Coffey’s son and Rand are going in shares for the parts) which is where the ethanol comes in. After the briquette machine is completely operational then they’ll convert the briquette machine to using the biomass briquettes in a steam engine so it will basically be producing enough briquettes to fuel its own production.
Rand “found” a really old team engine tractor. The old woman just wants someone to help her and her grandchildren out and could care less about the old junk her husband – dead over twenty years – left in the barn. He’s been hauling it home a few parts at a time in exchange for keeping her property mowed and plowing her garden. The tires on this thing are very strange and the overall size of the thing is huge. Rand is going to have to build a pole barn for the tractor alone. When the tractor is up and running Rand says we’ll be sitting on gold. I don’t know about that but it sounds like he won’t have to work so hard and that’s good to me. We don’t get to spend near as much time together as we used to, it makes me a little anxious and sad … and lonesome.
For my part in trying to add to our family’s “wealth” I’ve been drying a bunch of stuff the last week or so; beets, English peas, greens, turnips, and today I harvested several bunches of celery. It has been so long since I’ve had fresh celery that I had a really hard time not eating a whole bunch … literally. There are days that I could just graze from sun up to sun down. I have to be careful though because gaining too much weight with the baby could be just as bad as gaining too little according to Ken. I’ve got a cleaner bill of health than I had before. Blood pressure is all under control and I’m feeling better too.
The one thing I’m not feeling so good about is that Rand brought word that SueLinda’s business isn’t the only unsavory one that is springing up along a certain section of the river. There’s gambling, a few saloon type bars, and a black market warehouse. Because of the goods they have for sale or trade there they are pulling business away from the Trade Shack. Bill and Missy aren’t hurting, they run a legitimate business and provide a real service, but when people start bartering for luxuries they have less to trade for their needs. The military supposedly keep a close eye on what is happening but claim they really don’t have any jurisdiction over them unless they become a threat to the community’s general peace and safety. I suppose that depends on how you look at it and whose yardstick you are using to measure it by.