Thursday, January 28, 2010

Chapter Sixty

Chapter 60

November 20th – I think today was the first time I felt truly resentful of the responsibilities I now have. All I wanted to do was stay in bed, and I wanted Rand to stay with me and I just wanted the rest of the world to go take a flying leap head first over a steep cliff.

I’m tired of people shooting at me. I’m tired of shooting other people. I’m tired of watching how low people can sink … including friends and family. I’m tired of having to scrape away the outside layers of people and events to find good things to balance the equation. I’m tired of having to remind myself that “peoples is peoples” and that life isn’t fair. I’m tired of having to decide between what is emotionally easier and more comfortable and what may help us down the road.

Life was a lot easier when there was only me. In a way life got easier once Rand and I totally committed to one another and I’d never give him up willingly if I was given the chance to fight for him. But, at the same time my life has also gotten more complicated … my baggage, his baggage, our baggage. People, people, people … my tolerance level for them is pretty low at the best of times; the last little bit and today have been more challenging than usual.

It was so hard to wake up this morning and get going. Unfortunately for me Rand was in a really good mood. Fortunately for me he is pretty good at reading my moods and suggested that I stay in bed and he’d get breakfast. Well, of course I couldn’t stay in bed after such a sweet offer so I got up and tried to make up for being so curmudgeonly by making a nice omelet. The food even helped my own mood a bit and so did the fact that Rand did the milking.

After breakfast I felt a little more human and tried to get down to business. I had a lot of cabbage that I needed to do something with. First thing I did after looking over the garden was can some cole slaw.

Take three pounds of cabbage and cut it into quarters and remove the core. Then wash two large carrots and cut it into chunks. Next use whatever method you have handy to shred the cabbage and carrots into “slaw” size. I’ve got one of those old had crank shredders that Momma used at canning time but I also tried using the fine shredders holes on a cheese shredder, I used the crank simply because it reminded me of good times with Momma. After you have everything shredded fine dice two large onions and toss them into the cabbage and carrot mess. Mix one teaspoon of pickling salt into the “slaw” stuff and let it sit at room temperature for forty-five minutes. While the “slaw” is sitting, mix two cups of white vinegar, one and one-half cups of sugar and two tablespoons of celery seed in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil and then boil for one minute. Cool the vinegar mix slightly and then pour it into the slaw and mix well. Ladle the coleslaw mixture into hot, sterilized jars, adjust two piece lids, and process for 15 minutes in boiling water bath canner. To serve the slaw use it as is or drain it and then stir in salad dressing of your choice or mayonnaise. I figure this will be a good way to have some “fresh” greens when it is too hot to actually grow them.

While the slaw was processing I made beet relish. I had canned extra beets just for this purpose. Combine one quart of chopped, cooked beets, one quart of chopped cabbage, one cup chopped onions, one cup of chopped sweet red peppers, one and one-half cups sugar, one tablespoon of horseradish, one tablespoon of salt, and three cups of vinegar in a large saucepot. Simmer the whole pot for ten minutes then bring it to a boil. Pack the now hot relish into hot jars, leaving ¼" headspace. Adjust the caps and process for fifteen minutes in a boiling water bath. This yielded nearly ten half-pints. The little bit that wouldn’t fit into a jar I put in a bowl for the lunch and dinner table today. It was a nice change.

With the beet relish in the canner and the slaw sitting on the counter cooling I started the corn relish. I think I have just enough fresh ears of corn left after this to roast some corn for Thanksgiving and after that I’m going to let the remainder dry. We’re going to need a lot of feed next year and I’d like to have enough corn to make cornmeal from as well since there is no way the wheat flour is going to last unless I use up all of the wheat I have in the long term storage cans. But first we’ll have to pull out the seed we will need for next planting season.

For the corn relish you start with eighteen ears of corn and boil them for five minutes. Then you cut the corn from the cob and put it into a pan. I had to use one of Momma’s huge porcelain dishpans for this. These are part of the “junk” she got when my grandparents passed away. There is a picture of me sitting in one of these when I was about three or four years old, that’s how big these things are.

To the corn I added one small head of chopped cabbage, one cup of chopped onion, one cup of chopped sweet green peppers, one cup of chopped sweet red peppers, one cup of sugar, two tablespoons of dry mustard, one tablespoon of celery seed, one tablespoon of mustard seed, one tablespoon of salt, one tablespoon of turmeric, one quart of vinegar, and one cup of water. Then I brought everything to a boil; reduced the heat and simmered for twoenty minutes. Once the relish simmered I packed it hot into hot jars, leaving a quarter inch headspace. I adjusted the caps and processed them for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath. I got a full six pints out of the batch so I made a second one to make sure there was enough to last through the year.

In case I’ve failed to mention it, I was raised on relish trays. Momma could put one together at the shortest notice imaginable. The door rack in our refrigerator always had lots of goodies to choose from and all of them homemade. But that is a problem for me because I don’t have a refrigerator. There is the cooler/freezer in the barn but that is fairly small and is reserved for the dairy products for the most part. I also hope to use it when it comes time have more eggs than I can use in a day so that I can save them up. Rand is talking about something called an “icy ball” but it requires ammonia gas I think. There are so many projects we could do but might not be able to all for the lack of one vital ingredient or piece. The list is in small print and it is still longer than my arm; and getting longer every week it seems.

It wasn’t lunch time but I set some of the shredded cabbage that I had set aside and made a regular cole slaw and then made some hush puppies. It would have been nice to have had some fish but we didn’t, well not regular fish anyway. What I made was salmon croquettes from one of the last cans of salmon in the store bought supplies. The hushpuppies didn’t go with them too well but Rand didn’t seem to notice; he ate his two and most of my second one since I wasn’t as hungry as I thought I was going to be. Mostly all I seemed to want to do was pick at my food. Rand noticed and asked if I was feeling OK.

I wasn’t sure how to answer him. Physically I was just tired but I feel all in knots on the inside. He suggested I was having a delayed reaction to what had happened in the park. I suggested I was having a reaction to people in general and that I wished they would just all behave so we could get on with living our lives.

After an early lunch Rand asked if I wanted to take a walk. That sounded nice at the time. It was too hot for a jacket and too cool to go without something so I grabbed one of Rand’s flannel shirts wishing I had a few of my own that didn’t come down practically to my knees and didn’t wind up looking silly because of how much I had to roll the sleeves up. Rand said I looked “cute” which only made me feel grumpy again, but I relaxed as we walked. Of course the rifles we carried made holding hands difficult so we mostly just walked side by side and spoke quietly.

We were up at the dogleg where the gully is when Rand mentioned that the smell isn’t noticeable any more. I realized he was right and I'm relieved. For a while there it was pretty bad even though I had carried all those bodies far over into the pines on the other side of the property line. The vultures are pretty numerous even today. I guess they’ve started calling that spot home. The only good thing is that apparently it freaks people out to see all of the vultures around here constantly and people stay away; superstitious or scared, I don’t really know which. Hoss got a kick out of telling me the other day that I was getting a “reputation.” Great. Lovely. Is the sarcasm coming through strong enough? I doubt it. I hate having people talk about me, I always have. People don’t know a tenth of what they think they know. It is a wonder that Rand even wanted to have anything at all to do with me.

This whole “I want it to be just the two of us” thing for Thanksgiving is fine with me but I do worry that maybe it is me driving people away rather than Rand wanting to get away. I don’t see him being able to live that way for long though, he is too much of a people person or at least he is compared to me. He told me not to worry about it but that wasn’t much of an answer.

When we got up to the end of our road I really noticed just how over grown the ditches and right of ways are getting. Little oak tree sprouts are everywhere and the Johnson grass is taking over. Cracks in the road are forming too but CR49 is still in better shape than the parts of US90 that have seen fighting. I have noticed that the parts on our acreage that used to get bush hogged semi-regularly are really getting bad too. Rand hopes that the goats do their thing and we have some kids (of the goat persuasion) this coming spring. They haven’t up to this point so either Billy isn’t interested or the does aren’t interested in Billy … or we aren’t doing something right. It must be more difficult than just introducing the boys and girls to one another. Good grief, I hope I don’t have to set up a goat dating service; I’ve got enough to do.

Of course more goats mean a bigger pen area for them. Rand said we could probably have them in with the cows but I’m not sure how many cows and goats together will work on that space. Rand says around here you can generally work two cows per acre of land. We’ve got about ten acres fenced in but if the rye fields don’t work out we’ll make that claimed land a second pasture area and move the animals back and forth as necessary.

Bradley was manning the two-man station that Mr. Henderson asked our “permission” to set up across the road from us. It isn’t really directly across the road, more across the road and north about a hundred feet or so, closer to the intersection of CR49 and US90. We walked down to hear the news. It wasn’t good; it wasn’t horrendous but it wasn’t good either.

Rather than being concentrated in one area and battling each other the remnants of the “squatters” and the “DC gang” were out and about looking to recoup their losses and to do whatever it is that they thought they were doing to survive. Frankly, the population in this area has gotten thin enough that surely they could simply build their own homestead and blend in with little effort. I don’t understand why they have to make it so hard on themselves and everyone around them. People on both sides are going to wind up hurt or dead and there has been enough of that already for Pete’s sake.

There have been a few raids here and there but nothing too valuable was stolen as most people don’t have stuff worth getting shot or knifed over. Those that have something valuable like animals or food of some type are learning to protect it sufficiently that anyone trying to steal it will take a heavier loss than anything they gain by the effort. And I don’t know how but word gets around and often a successful repelling of a thief makes other potential thieves and raiders think twice, or at least that is what we are learning from the few raiders and thieves that have been caught alive and then questioned. Usually however a raider or thief escapes … or they don’t. There aren’t any jails these days, not since the National Guard pulled out, and people aren’t shy about using deadly force when necessary.

Martin Mercer’s family got hit especially hard but no one can confirm whether it was done by one of the gangs or by locals looking for vengeance. It’s hard to say and after what I saw happen at the park neither one would surprise me.

I got tired of being eyed by the young guy working with Bradley and left the conversation and started stuffing my pockets with the acorns I found on the ground a few feet away. They were different than the ones that we have around the house. The ones at the house are kind of an oval shape with a pointy end opposite where the cap end. The ones by the guard shack were small and round. I also saw a huge stand of Spanish Bayonet … a type of yucca (yuck – uh not you-ca). In the next couple of days I’ll dig up the smaller ones and take them back to our place and plant them in such a way to help keep the cows under control. I’d really like to eventually be able to enclose the entire cow pasture with agave and Spanish Bayonet. It is a food source that will double as a fence and protective barrier for the animals. Rand loves the idea, now it is just a matter of getting enough of the plants. He brought back a lot from the tree farm in Lee but they are years away from getting big enough to do the job.

Rand finished talking and we started walking back. “Sorry if you were bored.”

“I wasn’t bored just … I hate being stared at and that guy with Bradley … “

“Was he bothering you?! I didn’t see anything … if he … “

“Down big fella. It wasn’t like that. It looked more like if I would have said ‘boo’ he would have jumped out of his skin. I’m not a freak no matter what some people might think. You finally helped me to get over feeling like that and I thought I was over caring what people thought but … “

“Hey now … it really did bother you didn’t it?”

“Yeah. I’m sorry Rand, I just have days where doing the people thing is hard for me.”

“Don’t worry about it Babe and if it matters I don’t think Brian meant anything bad. He has always been a bit jumpy, that’s why he teams with guys like Bradley that are calm as an ox. He is actually a lot better than he used to be.”

“Lucky Bradley,” I said while rolling my eyes.

Rand laughed and we walked the rest of the way home not talking much about anything in particular, just enjoying each other’s company. Maybe that is why God teamed me with Rand, he balances out my issues. I wonder what I give Rand beside the beginnings of male patterned baldness?

Once we were back in our yard Rand went off to work on the hot water thingy for the barn roof. It will probably be the spring before I can use it, certainly will have to be after any chance of freeze has passed. Rand said we won’t get too many of those nights but there will be enough of them that we could still bust a pipe.

For me I went and picked the miniature blue popcorn that was dry on the stalk, shucked them and laid them on the counter to cure for a couple of more days just to be on the safe side before I put the kernels in storage. I also picked the butternut squash. They aren’t big like the ones I used to see in the grocery store but they were big enough that when I split them, stuffed them, and then baked them they made half a meal for Rand and I. I added the leftover hushpuppies and then made a rice pilaf to round things out. I canned a load of the squash and had them finished by the time Rand came in to clean up so we could eat before it got dark.

While we ate I asked Rand what his favorite Thanksgiving foods were; pretty standard stuff … turkey, stuffing, green beans, corn casserole, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie. I have a few more that I’m going to add to this, the only thing missing will be cranberries but I have some dried ones that look like raisins that I’ve been saving for something special. I’ll have to start thinking about that tomorrow. It may only be the two of us but I’m determined that it will still be nice and memorable.

November 21st – Brendon and Clyde came by today. I’m glad that Rand and I managed to put a lot of the stuff from Ichetucknee away in the dormer room before they arrived. They were still crowing about what they had been able to get … in some cases what they had basically taken out of other people’s hands. They kind of picked at Rand by saying that they could have used his help if he and I hadn’t been making out. Rand’s a better person than I … I would have blown both barrels at them but Rand helped me ratchet back my need to defend him by putting his arm around me and saying he had different priorities and that we weren’t hurting enough that he was willing to risk getting hurt for something that wouldn’t do much more for us than what we already have.

Brendon rolled his eyes … gosh there are days that if it wasn’t for Alicia I could gladly kick him in the shins … but Clyde looked thoughtful and said, “Well, you did come out with that rifle.” Rand just responded with a noncommittal, “Mmmm.” Clyde is the “go to” guy when you need something fixed on your gun or reloads for your ammo; I think it is called being a gunsmith or something like that. I think he expected Rand to show off the rifle. It is actually up in the gun vault and the ammo I stored out in the palmettos has been safely tucked away as well.

Clyde gave me a bit of a look and said he noticed a big gap in the ammo that was in the trailer compared with the weapons that the bad guys were found with. Rand replied, “I don’t recall noticing but were you able to figure out what they took before you guys ran them off?”

Clyde seemed to relax and then replied, “Couldn’t tell. Stuff was spilled all over the place and people were running around like chickens with their heads cut off. Don’t know if they were even paying attention to what they took.” I guess Rand’s reply had given him an alternative theory to think on rather than being suspicious of me and what I might have done. I wonder if that is what gave me away to Mr. Henderson or if it was something else?

Then they went on about how the folks over on their road were getting together and were going to share a big pilgrim style Thanksgiving. Not a hint of an invitation. Rand looked relieved that they didn’t ask. I think he just wants what he wants but doesn’t want to create a situation to get it. That’s fine. Whether it bothers Rand or not I’ll tuck this little incident into my memory banks. I won’t be vindictive about it but if anything is eventually said I will bring it up. Normally I would not care at all, but for these people to be Rand’s family they too easily exclude him from stuff. It may not be ill-intentioned but that doesn’t make it right.

I was in the middle of baking pumpkins so that I could make some pumpkin-y stuff over the next few days … pancakes, bread, muffins, pies, empanadas, etc. … so I didn’t bother playing hostess to the hilt like I might have noirmally. Brendon mentioned how good something smelled and I said, “Thank you.” If he was looking for something to eat he had hacked off the wrong girl.

I disappeared for a bit leaving them to do the guy-talk thing without me under foot. After they left Rand walked around to the summer kitchen, sat in a chair, laid his head down and then started laughing. Laughing!

“Babe I wish you had been out there. They were doing everything but standing on their heads trying to get me to admit that you had somehow gotten to stuff before they all did. I didn’t even act like I knew what they were hinting at and they wouldn’t come right out and ask. I haven’t had so much fun driving Brendon crazy in a long time.”

“And that is funny why?” I asked perplexed and worried at the same time.

“Oh, just ‘cause.” After he got a look at my face Rand said, “Oh come on. Now don’t go getting all upset. This isn’t a problem.”

“Oh it isn’t is it? They are basically saying that I got to stuff before they did and that they want to know what we got. For one thing they make it sound like I took unfair advantage of the situation. For another, even if I did – and I did of course – but even if I did, why do they need to know what I took out of those trailers? What business is it of theirs? They weren’t exactly playing fair themselves when they were after ‘their’ share. What good do they think it is going to do for them to know what it is or isn’t? Are they going to try and ‘equitably’ redistribute stuff?!”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa … I think you are taking this a little too personal Honey.”

“Am I? Rand, I’m sorry but I just don’t have a real good opinion of people. I’ve met some good people that have helped me out when they have had no reason to do so. I’ve also met some dregs of humanity. Trust me, there are a whole lot more dregs than there are good. I know these folks are your family … and I guess by extension mine if they’ll claim me … but I saw how Brendon and Clyde acted yesterday; Paul and some of Henderson’s men too. That was … disappointing … and it reminded me how people can get, even those we care about and like. No offense against your people but it makes me wonder if they would turn on us if they thought we had more than we should.”

“I’ll admit things got a little hairy while people were taking stuff out of the trailers. “

“A little?”

“Ok, some of those people … including members of my own family … acted a little too much like the same people they were taking the stuff from. I’ll even admit that watching them was a bit like being the only sober person at a drunken frat party. But I’m not sure I’m willing to extrapolate from that and say that if they knew what we had stored away here that they’d make us share the wealth.”

“Mmmmm. Then why don’t we tell them about all the secret storage stuff we have? Why do we keep the dormer room and its content a secret? The hidden pantry closed when anyone is around? Invite people into the house rather than having a sit down on the front porch?”

Rand looked at me and I could see him scrunching his eyebrows and that at least means that he is really thinking. “You have a point. You may have a bigger point than I want to concede. I don’t know.”

“Oh Rand, I don’t want to take away the … confidence or belief … you have in people. I love that you get the people thing better than I do. Maybe I’m too suspicious. I don’t know. Please don’t be in a bad mood because …”

He put his arms around my waist and pulled me into his lap to let me know he wasn’t mad and said, “Babe I’m not. I don’t think that my family would try that equitable redistribution crap the government tried. That doesn’t mean that I’ll ignore the potential problems either. So yeah, we keep our stuff to ourselves. Uncle George hasn’t exactly been helping us for free. I’ve got to go next week and work in his hayfields and I am the one that bought the pigs and beef that I’m claiming as mine during butchering week before this all got started as well as the feed for them. I love my family; I’m not blind to their faults. I’m not saying they wouldn’t try guilting us into doing something but I’m nearly positive they wouldn’t use force.”

“Guilting isn’t bad enough?”

Rand smiled again and said, “I love you, you know that? Don’t worry about the family. If they try using guilt just ignore it. And no, I’m not saying that it is always easy but I stopped letting it get to me a while ago. You helped with that even more. They can’t make us do anything so try and relax about it. To be honest I’ll be glad to see the other side of butchering. This way if something does happen … and I’m not saying it will … we can afford a little more separation. I do love Uncle George but I don’t like feeling beholden to him any more than necessary.”

I just don’t see how people do it. I can’t remember stuff like that happening in my family. But then again, we lived far enough away from the bulk of my family that when we visited there wasn’t time to fuss and fight or whatever. We only had time to enjoy each other’s company before having to leave again. Come to think of it, none of them fought too hard to be my guardian and I kind of got dropped out of the family loop after a while. Oh, whatever. That stuff happened a long time ago and there is no changing it. It is what it is. I just don’t understand people and their drama sometimes.

Spent some time tonight cracking acorns; better late than never. I’m going to try and make acorn flour but for now I’m going to bed.

November 22nd – Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I’ve been busy. First of all Rand got our turkey in the middle of the morning which meant that I had to stop what I was doing and clean the bird so that we could put it in the cooler until I can start cooking it in the morning. I plucked it like a chicken … so not fun … and saved the best feathers for quills and threw the rest in the compost hole Rand dug way back in the corner of the property for junk that we can’t do anything else with. To pluck the turkey I had to heat up a huge pot of boiling water outside, hang the turkey over the pot, and dip boiling water to pour over the turkey to scald the feather so that they would come off in one tug. Once I had finished that Rand took the bird and took care of the innards. He left me the giblets to make gravy with and then took the other bits off for Woofer and Fraidy to have at their leisure but out of my sight. I’m not easily grossed out but I do have my limits.

The bird is clean and sitting in the cooler. It looks pretty big for us, it weighs fourteen pounds now that it has been cleaned inside and out, and will take about three and a half hours to roast. I’ll start first thing in the morning after my early chores are finished.

I did some baking today that will hold over for tomorrow’s meal. One of the things I baked was Pumpkin Bread but instead of white sugar I used some of the sorghum that Rand had helped harvest. Mix together one-half cup of sorghum syrup, one cup of pumpkin puree, two eggs, one-half cup oil, and 0one-half cup of water. Next sift together one and two-thirds cup of plain flour, three-quarter teaspoon of salt, one-quarter teaspoon of baking soda, one-quarter teaspoon of baking powder, one teaspoon of all spice, and one-half teaspoon of ground cinnamon. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredient and mix well. Then add ½ cup golden raisins & one-half cup chopped nuts. Instead of golden raisins I used some of the dried cranberries and for the nuts I used the pecans that I had shelled. Pour batter into a large prepared loaf pan and bake at 325 degrees F for about forty-five minutes. If I had to do it over again I’d probably have added a little more sweetening but then again I like my quick breads sweet.

I started my “sponge” for making salt rising bread tomorrow by scalding a cup of milk and sifting a half cup of cornmeal into it and then cooking the two until it thickened. From there I pour the gunk into a sanitized quarter mason jar, covered the top of the jar with some cheesecloth, wrapped the whole thing in a towel and then set that in the warming bin of the princess. Hopefully it will do its thing overnight and tomorrow I’ll be able to finish the bread.

I baked a pumpkin pie and a pecan pie and those are sitting in the pie keep. Instead of a bunch of other pies I made some dried fruit empanadas from the apple and peaches I dried out of our own orchard. I baked the pan of cornbread today to use to make the stuffing with tomorrow as well.

When I wasn’t cooking I was cleaning. I wanted to eat in the formal dining room. We hadn’t yet, not even for our wedding feast, and I wanted to just for the heck of it. The fancy dishes and silver were pretty dirty so I spent over an hour trying to clean up all of the serving pieces I wanted to use. Just in case it got dark early or it took longer to cook than I expected I took down the useless like fixture over the table and hung an oil lamp … looked antique but was actually a modern anniversary gift from my grandfather to my grandmother when I was little. Memaw used to use it when the power would go out at the farm. It uses regular lamp oil instead of kerosene which I guess is a good thing since that is what I have. Rand has about five gallons of kerosene but he wants to save that in case he has to sit up during the night with the animals if it gets really cold.

In the midst of everything else I worked on the acorn flour. I can guarantee this is not something that I would want to have to rely on all the time. It is a lot of work.

First you dump your acorns into a bucket or bowl of water and if you have any floaters you can toss those since they are likely insect eaten on the inside. Good acorns sink because their nut meats are intact. Drain the water off of the acorns and into a big kettle of water and bring that water to a boil. While the water is heating start cracking acorns. And crack … and crack … and crack. You will have to pick out the nut meats but don’t freak if they are all broken. You want them that way.

Put your nutmeats in a bowl and then pour the boiling water over them. Stir them up a bit and then let them soak until the water darkens. When I first started this morning it would only take fifteen or twenty minutes for the water to get ucky looking. By this evening it took forty-five minutes. I’ve set them to soak for the night and I’ll see how dark the water is in the morning. If it still looks like tea then I’ll change to fresh water and keep going until the acorns don’t leech any more tannin into the water … the tannin is what makes the water dark. I hope to be able to finish up the acorn flour tomorrow but we’ll have to wait and see.

I also made marshmallows because I needed them for the sweet potato casserole I am making tomorrow. To make the marshmallows I combined three tablespoons of Knox dry gelatin with one-half cup of cold water and let it stand for an hour. In the meantime, I heated two cups of sugar, three-quarter cup of light corn syrup, one-half cup of water, and one-quarter teaspoon of salt to a boil and cooked the whole mess until it reached the firm-ball stage (244°F; 117°C). Once there I removed it from the heat and poured the glop slowly over the gelatin, beating it constantly with my heaviest whisk. I beat it for a good 15 minutes; my arm felt like it was going to fall off and is still sore tonight. When thickened but was still warm, I added two tablespoons of vanilla (or you can add any flavor you want if you feel creative). I spread the mixture in a pan that had been lightly dusted with cornstarch and left it dry overnight. I’ll finish them up tomorrow.

For the most part the day was a lot better for me than the day before had been even with Mitch and Mr. Henderson dropping by. Mitch looked cross-eyed at me making acorn flour but he said he’d heard that other people were doing it. Both men admitted that Cassie had surprised them and Mitch had an … interested look on his face I guess you would call it; like he was interested in this new Cassie but wasn’t quite sure what to make of her or whether to trust her. Who knows? If they push her too hard to change they could make a big a mess as Cassie did by not wanting to change at all, but it isn’t any of my business. It’s not like I have a great track record when it comes to people skills.

After the two men left Paul and Sadie showed up. I like Sadie; she’s a bit of a smart aleck just like me only she is sweeter and better at laughing at herself. She is also as nosy as I am about wanting to learn how to do something that she sees and has never done before. She was interested in the acorn flour and wrote down the directions to take make to Momma O who I have no doubt has some improvement that can be made on the process.

After they left Rand said all three men had been feeling him out to see if we had taken anything from the park. Rand said he only mentioned the rifle and then asked if they had heard of any ammo for it like we didn’t have any beyond what was left in the magazines I had picked off of DC. Rand said Mitch backed off like he was no longer sure of his suspicions but Mr. Henderson never did push at all. He is such a wiley man; I’m sure Mr. Henderson suspects something but it looks like he doesn’t really care or maybe approves. Whether he will use the information down the road or not is a horse of a different color.

Either way I think I’m done worrying about it too much. We’ll just need to remember to be careful of exposing the stuff down the road before it gets more spread out in the community through trading and the like.

November 23rd – Happy Thanksgiving!! I am as full as a tick and we’ve got enough leftovers that I don’t think I’ll have to do any cooking tomorrow which is really nice for a change.

I was up early, even before Rand for once since I was a little sick to my stomach for some reason; probably just leftover nerves. That happens to me on occasion. He was up though by the time I was out of the bathroom and even had the fire in the princess going for me warming up a pot of water. Tea was exactly what I wanted and Rand took a mug of coffee with him when he went to the barn to deal with morning animal chores.

The first thing I did was check the sponge and it was bubbly and smelled pretty yeasty which meant that I had done it right. Then it was time to get the rest of it going. In a saucepan I combined four cups of milk and one tablespoon of sugar and heated it to scalding. Then I cooled it off slightly and added it to the cornmeal mixture in a large mixing bowl. Next I gradually stirred in six cups of flour that I had ground last night and set the whole mess in a warm place to rise until it doubled (that took approximately 2 hours).

By that time Rand came back inside and brought the turkey with him along with the skimmed cream from yesterday’s milking. I rinsed the bird off again just to be safe in case it had gotten anything on it between the cooler and the house then I plopped the carcass in a roasting pan with a lid. While I was doing this Rand ate a couple of slices of pumpkin bread with homemade butter. He offered me a piece but my stomach was still saying no. He gave me a kiss and said he’d do the milking for me again which was a big relief.

I buttered the turkey’s skin and then put the lid on the roaster and slid it into the preheated oven. I put a quart of green beans in a pan and then seasoned them with salt, pepper, and a little corn oil. It wouldn’t be the same as having bacon drippings but one of these days we’ll have our own bacon. I didn’t have any fresh potatoes, I don’t even know how I’m going to grow any since you need seed potatoes to begin with, but I did have one can of potatoes left over from some of the original stored items. I put those in after the beans had cooked down a while.

After the beans I put the sweet potato casserole together. I had to use canned sweet potatoes and I was sad that when they were gone that might be another thing I never see again, or at least not for a long time. I layered the pineapple and sliced sweet potatoes in a 8x8 baking pan, sprinkled a little mace and cinnamon over them and then covered and set it aside.

It was finally time to get going on the bread again. I took the bread mixture and added three-quarter cup of shortening, one-half cup of sugar and one tablespoon of salt and mixed well. From there I gradually added six cups of flour and worked it in. Then came the hard part. I put a generous dusting of flour on the island and turned the dough mixture onto it. I worked in more flour and kneaded it for about 20 minutes. Then I divided the dough into four equal parts and put it in greased and floured loaf pans. I brushed the tops of the loaves with shortening and placed them in the warming tray of the princess to give it time to rise to double its size (took approximately 2 hours).

I put the ears of corn on to roast and finished putting together the cornbread stuffing. I was a little stuck at that point waiting for the oven to be freed up so I did a little cleaning, put fresh water on the acorns (the water was still kind of tea colored), made the bed, pulled some apple juice out of the pantry, and a few other odds and ends. By the time I was finished with that it was time to take out the turkey. The turkey required a few minutes to brown the skin up a little but not long. I set the roaster on the side board to let the turkey rest and then popped in the bread and the sweet potato casserole, bread, and small pan of cornbread stuffing that I made up … it was like fitting together a jigsaw puzzle but it worked.

At twenty minutes the casserole had to be topped by the marshmallows that I had cut up using kitchen shears dipped in cornstarch. And then it went back in until the top was bubbly and brown. When that was done and ready to come out so was the stuffing. I brushed the bread with some more butter and called Rand in to get cleaned up while the loaves backed for another twenty minutes or so.

It was getting very cool outside but I hadn’t noticed because the kitchen was so warm. Rand said he could see his breath out in the barn but he didn’t think we were going to get a freeze. We’ll check thermometer one more time before we go to bed. While Rand washed up I finished setting the table and lit the lamp just because of the heavy cloud cover and everything looked so nice and cheery I wished for a camera to capture the moment. Then for some reason I started getting sad. I have absolutely no idea why. Stupid hormones I guess.

I wiped my eyes before Rand came out and when he asked all I said was, “Onions I guess.” There is no sense in upsetting him when there isn’t anything he can do about it.

We had fun trying to follow the directions in one of Momma’s etiquette books on how to carve a turkey but after a few minutes we just laughed and the meat came off however it came off. Rand likes the dark meat and I like the light meat so he took a drumstick and I took some of the breast. It was good if I do say so myself except maybe a little dryer than I meant for it to be. Momma used to cook her turkeys in a paper grocery sack but I daren’t use ours for that since we might need the few we have for something else.

We ate and ate and ate. Neither one of us has eaten like this for a long time. It isn’t often that we eat passed being full. You could have rolled me around the house I ate so much. Even with that there are plenty of leftovers. Rand asked if I would make turkey sandwiches tomorrow and I said he’d probably be eating turkey until he was sick of it.

He said, “Not a chance Babe. This is good. Not even Uncle George’s turkey came out like this. He usually deep fried a small turkey and by the time we all got a taste it was practically gone. Uncle George can’t stand Thanksgiving leftovers.”

“Well then I guess it is a good thing he isn’t getting any of yours. You want me to save any of the pie before I put it away?”

Maybe next year we’ll share Thanksgiving with someone else but it was nice to have our first Thanksgiving just be the two of us. Rand went out and put the animals up early with a little extra feed for their own Thanksgiving dinner and it gave me time to clean up. I was still at it when he came back in and between the two of us it wasn’t a minute until it really was finished.

It also wasn’t a minute before Rand got silly and started chasing me around the house. It is a wonder we could even move. We ended up building a fire in the fireplace and we’ve just been relaxing ever since. I crocheted a bit but couldn’t seem to set my mind to it. I finally put it aside and started writing in my journal. I don’t know what is wrong with me to have the fidgets so much.

I think I have a game plan for tomorrow. I need to finish the acorn flour. I want to try my hand at making soda; Rand mentioned that he was craving one the other day and it has got my taste buds tingling for some now. We’ll need to finish off the leftovers and I want to can some turkey soup and maybe make some turkey jerky. I really need to start thinking about what I’m going to do when certain things start running out like white sugar and wheat flour. I’ve got general ideas in my head but I need to sketch out a timeline and put it on our big calendar.

I think for now though I’ll just go climb in Rand’s lap. I haven’t got a clue what is up with me but I don’t like this kind of coming apart around the edges feeling I have. There hasn’t been any more bad on the radio … well, no worse than normal … hardly any traffic lately to be honest. Nothing is really going wrong. Rand and I are doing all right. Maybe I’m just looking for trouble or maybe it really is just hormones. I don’t like it whatever it is.

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