Thursday, January 28, 2010

Chapter Seventy-Eight

Chapter 78

January 29th – I feel like I’m still a month behind but we got a bit caught up in the gardens today. Rand wouldn’t let me go as much as I wanted but then again I didn’t feel like I was able to go as much as I used to. Constant bathroom breaks for me also held me back. Darn that booklet anyway, why does it have to be right so much of the time?

The gardens weren’t as bad as they could have been but they needed attention. We pulled all the protective covers off of things. Good thing too because some of the seedlings were getting leggy and some of the cooler loving crops were actually getting too hot in the middle of the day. Austin and Rand spent a long time hauling water barrels and then running the drip hoses to each row. I gave up on the square foot gardening for some of the stuff because I don’t have automatic sprinklers. I need something convenient not necessarily space saving now that Rand has enlarged the original garden plot. Maybe I’ll go back to it at some point but not this season. I’ve got enough to figure out.

We set the barrels up on blocks we’ve set at the head of every couple of rows. Rand installed old spigots at the base of each barrel. Attached to the spigots are old garden hoses that we scavenged. We’ve poked a lot of pin holes in the hoses and capped off the ends of each length of hose. With the barrels full we just turn the spigots to the on position and water shoots through the hoses and out of the pin holes. It’s not a perfect solution but it’s better than having to water everything by hand like we were doing in the beginning. That was a back breaking bit of work. Now I only have to water where it is obvious that it needs it.

Rand salvaged some honest to goodness black drip hose from an old tree farm but the hose was really long and meant to be hooked up to an electric well with lots of pressure. We couldn’t duplicate it so we plan on saving it for the corn rows and figure out how to pump the water through as best we can.

We did lose a few plants, I guess you can’t get away from that, lucky for us it wasn’t too much of any one type of crop to be overly worrisome so long as the February crops make. I still have seed held back and that should let us plant enough that there won’t be a shortage for next season’s seeds.

What did hack me off a bit was that I noticed, even with the fence and Woofer and Fraidy doing their share that something was nibbling around the edges. Whatever it was hit everything but the potatoes. Rand said they wouldn’t either because potatoes are kin to tobacco the same as tomatoes are and not even deer will touch them unless they are starving to death. “And Babe, there is plenty of mast even with the hard freeze we had so unless the animals over forage I don’t think we’ll have as much trouble as we did last year.”

I certainly hope not. With Austin to feed I need to increase the fresh and preserved food, especially as our “store bought” stuff goes away. Not that I’m complaining. Austin hasn’t been with us long and sometimes I still catch myself feeling weird about having him around, but on the other hand Rand seems to really enjoy it. He is used to having a younger tagalong following him around whether that was Brendon or Mick and he has the big brother thing down pat. And Austin is eating it up. His older brothers really missed out by shutting him out.

I’m so glad to be able to get back into the kitchen. It’s not that I’m ungrateful for the dishes people brought by while I was off my feet but I don’t think I’m ever going to be able to look a bean in the same way again. For lunch I made egg salad sandwiches. We had a bunch of fresh eggs that needed to be used up. I suppose I could have taken them over to the Shack to trade but egg salad is what I was craving and we had it. For dinner I knew the guys at least would need something heartier so I made Root Soup.

I cubed up one of the last of the canned hams we have (gave me about two cups of cubes) and put it in six cups of water and boiled it for ten minutes. To that I added one-half cup of dried potato slices, one-half cup of dried parsnip slices, one-half cup of dried turnip slices, one-half cup of dried green beans, one-half cup of dried brussel sprouts, one tablespoon of dried onion pieces, one tablespoon of dried grated carrot, one tablespoon of dried green bell pepper pieces, one-half tablespoon of dried celery powder, one teaspoon of chopped garlic, one teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce, and one-half teaspoon of celery seed. It sounds like a lot, and it is, but on the other hand there weren’t any leftovers when the recipe was supposed to make six servings.

What you do after you add all the dried stuff to the boiling ham broth is you make sure it comes to a boil again and then remove the pan from the heat, cover the pan, and let it sit for thirty minutes or a little longer. Then you put the pan back on the heat, bring the mixture back up to a boil, and simmer the soup for another thirty minutes until all the veggies are tender. I fixed corn muffins to go with it and there were enough left over that Austin and Rand mixed up some sorghum molasses and butter and put that on them for dessert.

Rand is definitely going to need to get that passive hot water heater set up on the roof of the barn, and maybe one on the house roof as well. The water tank on the back of the stove just isn’t going to be enough to keep up with our needs. In addition to the extra laundry that Austin is going to make (assuming I can ever get the poor boy some more clothes) the baby is going to make a lot of laundry. Gosh, all these things to think of.

January 30th – Talked to Rand and he’d rather wait before we get into having a booth at the swap meets. Seems they’ve set the community calendar so that a swap meet will follow the Saturday after a church service. This way there is something going on every weekend for those that are interested. It’s going to be more than a swap meet though; more like a social and I don’t know what else to call it. The Ladies’ Auxiliary will have a sewing exhibit and class, there will be games for the youngest kids, horseshoes for the men, and eventually lots of other stuff. I suppose we should enjoy it while the weather is nice and before the work really piles up; when that happens it is going to get hard to find the time to go to every church service and every swap meet and some of the other social events that people are talking about.

Bill and Missy close the Shack for the swap meets and they have a wagon they’ve built out of an old lightweight trailer that they will haul with goods in it. Bill has some men that he has “hired” to act as security to and from the park. I figure Rand shouldn’t be the only one trying to improve life for our little family. I made two halter tops and two “foundation garments” as my great grandmother used to call them. Not near the same as the aerodynamically designed and scientifically improved versions you used to be able to get in the store but better than nothing says I. I made them both in light weight pre-washed muslin so they should be durable, especially if they are hand washed rather than boiled with the rest of the laundry. I made them in average sizes and I guess I’ll tell Missy if she gets a lot of call for a particular size I’ll work on it somehow as long as I can get material.

I also found a bunch of old costume patterns in Momma’s stuff like sun bonnets, aprons, prairie dresses, some civil war era outfits, and a few belly dancing costume patterns of all things. I so do not want to know why Momma had those last ones although she used to take in some sewing to make extra money so maybe they are just leftovers from those jobs. There were also some lingerie patterns and bathing suit patterns that I might be able to use. The main chore is going to be getting the material I need although for the undies I can just use old t-shirt material I think. This could be where Ram comes in handy. I haven’t got it all figured out yet and the sewing is just one idea I’ve had.

My next idea has some of the same issues as the first … supplies. Only the supplies are actually ingredients. When I got tired of sewing I stopped and scrounged around in the kitchen and in Momma’s craft supplies and came up with some plastic baggies that I filled with some convenience mixes.

The first batch I made was powdered vegetable broth. I mixed together one teaspoon each of the following dried powders: onion, celery, tomato, spinach, bell pepper, and carrot. Then I added in one teaspoon of cornmeal. Next was half a teaspoon of each of the following: dried parsley, cayenne pepper, all-purpose flour, and chopped dried garlic. That will net you about three tablespoons of mix. You add one cup of boiling water to one tablespoon of the mix and you have instant vegetable broth. I quadrupled the batch and wound up with twelve little bead baggies of mix. If these don’t get any movement I’ll tell Missy just to give them back and I’ll use them for our bug bags. Tomorrow I’m going to make some muffin mixes up; but not many. There is no sense wasting our supplies if they aren’t going to bring in anything worth the outgoing effort.

Speaking of those bug bag things … or Bobs as Rand calls them … Rand pulled ours out tonight and reworked them and made one for Austin too. They are going to start carrying the small ones with them when they are out – Austin cut his hand on a devil’s walking stick today and they had to come all the way back to the house from the gully just to get a bandage for it. The cut wasn’t long but it was deep, more of a puncture, and it took me some time to clean it out. I’ve cleaned it out again since then and I’ll clean it out again in the morning. It doesn’t look like there was anything but a little dirt down in it the first time but better safe than sorry. I’m just glad we still have triple antibiotic cream to put on it.

January 31st – I said what the heck, it was raining this morning anyway, and made two more sets of foundation garments. Now that I know what I’m doing it isn’t so bad. Not only that but Austin said something that got me to thinking. Apparently his grandfather had a lady friend by the name of Miss Lucille. Austin must have overheard Rand and I talking about what I was going to wear when I outgrow the overalls and he told me how Miss Lucille used to be in charge of costuming for Pioneer Days at the local historical farm. “Some of them women were awful big, bigger even that Peepaw, and they still wore dresses. Miss Lucille just told ‘em to pull the skirts up real high that way she didn’t have to sew new ones every year. How come you don’t just do that?”

“Because I don’t like to show my legs.”

“You could wear socks. That’s what I do when I had to wear shorts for PE.”

Good grief I feel stupid. Now why did it take a ten year old boy to give me that idea? It might get a little prickly when summer comes back but that’ll be better than having to go around with my pants unsnapped all the time worrying that they’ll fall down.

The bags of mix I made today were for apple muffins. I mixed a half cup of sugar, one and one-half teaspoons of baking powder, one-quarter cup of brown sugar, one teaspoon of ground cinnamon, one cup of chopped dried applies, two cups of all-purpose flour, two tablespoons of powdered eggs and one-third cup of powdered milk. I stapled the following directions to the bag: Add one cup of water and one-quarter cup of oil and mix just until moistened. Spoon batter into greased muffin tins and bake fifteen to eighteen minutes in a preheated 400 degree F oven or until golden brown.

Today’s lunch was fried tree rat. The squirrels are coming back out and they are hungry. Rand found some in the barn this morning scrounging the feed that the animals drop. Either Fraidy had gotten fat and sassy and can pick and choose her dinners or the squirrels are so numerous she can’t eat them all, even with Woofer’s help. We don’t want the squirrels building nests in the barn so he set up a live trap in there after he took the animals out for the morning. Two hours and he had four squirrels.

That’s not a good sign. He didn’t even have to bait the cage too heavily. After the larger than expected lunch I decided to make soup for dinner. I took three cups of instant potato flakes from my LTS cans, a cup of powdered coffee creamer, a package of chicken gravy mix that I had in our food storage, one-quarter cup of grated parmesan cheese, two tablespoons of seasoning blend (I like Italian), one teaspoon of dried minced onion, and one-half teaspoon of pepper and then mixed all the dry ingredients together. I put eight cups of boiling water in a big pan and then added the dry ingredients. All you have to do is stir it up to bring apart any clumps of dry ingredients and then let stand for five minutes to thicken. I crumbled a little dried bacon on top of each serving and then put a basket of cat head biscuits on the table too. Good thing we have feed because by the time I give what few scraps there are to Woofer Taz and his harem don’t get anything at all from the table any more.

February 1st – Now today has been some kind of busy. Got the new garden planted, pretty much a duplicate of what we planted in January except for a few different varieties. Spent a long cool morning getting this done but with all three of us focused on it it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

The rest of my work time was taken up by cleaning the house. I’d been putting it off knowing what a job it was going to be but there just wasn’t any way around it. There was stuff still on the porch that needed to be brought in before a good wind and rain storm came, Austin needed his room cleaned out and … well, I needed to take a good look at what we had in the baby’s room.

I think I did too much. I was ready to pop a couple of Tylenol in my mouth until I remembered what Ken said so instead I made up a warm compress and just put it across my lower back. Being pregnant changes everything.

First thing was first, I pulled all of the storage tubs and bags out of Austin’s room. I don’t see any way around it, we are going to have to store some of the tubs up in the dormer room. I’ll leave that to Rand tomorrow and he can handle Austin however he sees fit. What I want to do is move the straight back sofa (looks kind of Victorian) up to the front bonus room and then take the futon that is already in the bonus room and move it up to the dormer room in the place Rand used to put his mattress on the floor. The two cheap (aka junky) chest of drawers in the bedrooms I emptied and had Rand move them out to the storage room in the barn. I figured he could use them to organize some of his tools and supplies … or break them apart and used them as building materials. I put the nice chiffarobe in the baby’s room and put a full-sized armoire in Austin’s room.

I emptied one of the big trunks that had dishes in it and had them slide that into Austin’s room as well. I plan on putting spare linens and blankets in the chest to fit his bed which will save me the room in the regular linen closet. I did the same thing for the baby’s room and also slid a small chest of drawers into the closet to use for baby stuff.

I got everything moved out of the two rooms that didn’t belong and even managed to move a few things in there but boy howdy there was still an awful mess. I found places for all of the pots, pans, and dishes. I can’t imagine ever using all of that stuff but Mrs. Withrow said I might be surprised. I suppose but it is still hard to imagine.

I think I’ve even got spots for all the furniture. In addition to what I had them move around … I still haven’t told rand about the sofas though … I moved one of the chests to the end of our bed and I was able to move my keep sake stuff into it with plenty of room for other stuff, moved the old spinning wheel up to the craft room, put two small end tables and a low slung chest upstairs on either side of the sofa (that I’m more determined to move around the longer I think about it) and we’ll move the real book cases upstairs to the bonus room too but that will have to wait until Brendon stops by as getting them up those stairs will be tricky.

Then I found places for what I could. I still have a pretty good pile of stuff … and the sofa/futon issue … that need to be finished up but I was beat and Rand is wanting to go to bed. I think he needs a little attention. It’s going to be weird with Austin in the house but doors close. Besides I guess we better get used to it.

February 2nd – I think I overdid Baking Day a little bit. In addition to the normal loaves of bread I make I made cookies, doughnuts, an applesauce can, and some pecan brittle. I must be nuts. I had to force myself to let Austin and Rand have the spoon and mixing bowl to lick. I’d laugh at myself if I wasn’t so embarrassed that they’d ask me to explain. When I compared the baby to an alien making me act different maybe I wasn’t so far off after all.

I keep trying to imagine what my life would have been like if the flu hadn’t happened. I’d be in my senior year of highschool biding my time until graduation and praying that I got the scholarships that would get me into college. I’d probably still be struggling socially with only a few friends and none of them any closer than arms length. I probably would be captain of the debate team … assuming the coach hadn’t found a prodigy to favor it with. Aunt Wilma would still be alive and I’d probably still be lonely. I wouldn’t have met Rand and … that’s enough. Why imagine what is never going to happen, what can’t happen. Why would I miss that stuff anyway? Sure, my life is a lot different. I’m different. But I’m beginning to be a whole lot more comfortable in my skin than I ever hoped to be.

Enough philosophizing. Swap meet is tomorrow. I have to be up early to pack our picnic basket and to have the stuff ready to pass off to Missy as incognito as possible.

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