Thursday, May 20, 2010

Chapter Ninety-Two

Chapter 92

May 1st – “The bucket brings up what is down in the well.” Words of wisdom courtesy of Momma O yesterday at church. I think what she meant was that people act the way they are on the inside. Bad people act bad because they are bad. Good people act good because they are good or because they are trying with what goodness they have in them to immulate someone else that is even better.

On the other hand it doesn’t mean that you can’t let the mud settle and bring up good water. I guess that is why some "bad" people will occasionally do something good when they try hard enough. Oh geez, now I’m starting to sound like her. Guess you’d call it philosophy, southern-style. There are worse things I can do than sound like Momma O. And it doesn't seem that there is that much time left to learn all that she has to teach. I’m really afraid that maybe she might not be around too much longer.

When I was in the hospital in the children’s wing for so long after the accident I was pretty self-involved; but even then there were things I couldn’t fail to see and learn. For instance, a lot of the kids on the long term ward were chronically ill or even terminally ill. I don’t know if it was being a kid or what but you could tell when one of the kids on the ward was starting to reach the end. It went beyond being frail, we were all frail. Their skin would get this funny color and go all thin and stretched looking. The older kids would sometimes get mad, like they knew they were going to miss out on all of the stuff that their parents and their doctors had been promising them that the next treatment would help them to experience. The younger kids would sometimes get real anxious and worried about their parents and what would happen to the people they would leave behind; they were more worried about them than they were about dying.

Momma O seems to be getting the same way. I got a little cabin fever and finally convinced Rand to let me take the pony cart and go over to see her. Mrs. Withrow and some of the other Ladies’ Auxiliary were there having tea. Every once in a while she’d say something like, “I just hate to go and leave DeLois all of this work.” Another time she said, “Kiri, I’m setting you back some of the heirloom flower seeds. You can’t forget to stop and smell the blooms God sends. Now don’t you forget. I’ve got it written down just in case.”

I didn’t know quite how to take it any more than I knew how to react to the kids when they would get that way. I’m not afraid of death but I’ve lost so much – OK, we have all lost so much – that the idea of losing one of the first people to offer me any acceptance around here just twists something deep inside me. I know better than lots of people how inevitable and unexpected death can be and that it is no respecter of age or circumstances. It chokes me up even to try and write about losing her. She’s been like a … I don’t know exactly how to say it. Not grandmother, not aunt, not mother, not sister, friend yes but more than that, mentor yes but still even more. Maybe all those things and a few more that don’t exactly have a name … an elder woman that offered me comfort, guidance, and most of all acceptance when I had had none of those things in so long. She gave me hope when I thought I'd lost Rand even before I'd ever had him. She offered me a bit of dignity before I could name that that was what I was looking for.

Death is inevitable in this life. No one lives forever. But why her? Why now?

May 2nd – I was planting my last row of black eyed peas when we got the word. At first I thought it was Momma O after getting a look at Cassie’s face and I braced myself but it was something from left field.

“Kiri, when’s the last time you had an MMR?” she asked.

“A what? You mean the vaccination?” I asked, confused at first as to what she meant.

“Yeah. When’s the last time you had an MMR? Can you remember?”

“I had to have one at the beginning of highschool. Why?”

“Think. How long ago was that?”

“During my freshman year … maybe three or four years ago, I can’t remember exactly. I …”

“Are you positive?”

“Well yeah. I had to have a whole slew of boosters because they couldn’t find my shot records from the hospital and Aunt Wilma freaked out and took me to the County Health Center and they shot me up so full of those things that I was sick for two days with a fever and my arms felt like they were going to fall off. Hey, what’s going on?” I asked at her sudden relief.

“One of our ranch hand’s little boys broke out in spots during the night. He was at church on Sunday. Pastor Ken says that it is measles. A couple of other kids at the ranch are running fevers too and so are some of the people my age. I had a booster for college but not everyone went to a college that required it or their booster is out of date. Poppy is really worried and he’s quarantining anyone that can’t prove they had a booster in the last five years. That ‘s almost everyone. Poppy had measles as a kid and his mom was pregnant at the time. He’s youngest brother was born deaf because his mom caught the measles at the same time.”

Of all the things that could go wrong with this baby, that is something I never even thought about. Cassie went on, “Ken is going to be by later. You better keep Austin close until you know for sure. And ask Rand. I can’t remember which one of our old crowd was vaccinated and which wasn’t.”

“Has word gone out to the Crenshaws?” I asked thinking of them all over that way.

“If it hasn’t gotten there yet I’m sure the news is on the way. Hoss said he was going over to his family’s place and he has to go right by the Trade Shack and was going to post a notice there. He went on a mission trip three years ago and had to get an MMR booster before the church would let him be part of the group. We may have to completely lock the ranch down if it gets bad.”

I didn’t mean to but I was in the middle of cooking supper and when Rand came home with the thresher I ran outside and started bawling my head off like a lunatic. I guess it had scared me more than I wanted to admit. I finally calmed down and was just able to save the cornbread. The only bright spot is that Austin was able to tell us for sure that he was vaccinated.

“I know you think I’m just a little kid and don’t know for sure but I do. It was a big fight between my mom and dad. Well, it wasn’t really my dad so much as the Judge. See, Mom rubbed the judge the wrong way – she could do that to people – shouting about power to the people and Mother Gaia and stuff when he had ruled against her on something she wanted. The judge threatened to throw her in jail for contempt and then Mom started saying things like … well, not nice things about how the government was trying to poison us and stuff. Grandpa said that made the judge suspicious and he asked for all my medical records and when he found out I hadn’t been vaccinated he gave a court order forcing Mom to take me to the doctor or lose her parental rights and junk. So I got all my shots. Look, I even have a scar where one of them got flamed and infected.”

Showing us a small round circle on his left bicep Rand asked, “You mean enflamed Buddy?”

“Uh, yeah, I guess. Flamed, enflamed, it swelled up real big. Mom pitched a real fit and screamed she was going to sue the judge. It was an awful mess,” and Austin shrugged as only a kid knows how, like that explained everything else that needed saying. I should know that shrug. It wasn’t too long ago that I used it fairly regularly as my main method of communication when any subject was getting uncomfortable. Why do I suddenly feel like somebody’s grandma? Maybe because I have more to worry about than I ever thought possible.

Ken did come by and the first thing out of his mouth was, “I don’t want you to worry.” Like I’m going to be able to abide by that particular rule. I know that I’m not supposed to worry. Even if there wasn't my stupid blood pressure Ken had preached on it a couple of months back, how it was a sin and all that. Well I won’t call it worry then, I’ve just got a major concern over several items currently going on in my life. There, how’s that for rationalization?

May 3rd – More cases of measles. Laurabeth won’t let anyone near baby Stevie except for Ron. Alicia is running scared because she can’t remember whether she was vaccinated or not, probably not, Tommy neither. She thinks her parents took the religious exemption. Uncle George came around to check on us and he said they’ve set it up so that no one can get up to the house and even the Trade Shack is shutting down for a few days to try and break any potential chain of infection. Scary times we live in.

May 4th – No new cases of measles have been reported but Ken said until a week has passed with no new cases no one should let their guard down. It has me thinking, what happens to all the kids who never had vaccinations or to the babies being born now? What happens when someone gets careless or is exposed through no fault of their own? How many of us will have to pay for someone else’s mistake?

I looked in the old family Bible, the one that Momma inherited when her folks died. My grandmother lost two baby sisters to diphtheria. I knew that Daddy lost a brother he never knew to measles. Momma's oldest brother had polio when he was real little and walked with a limp the rest of his life. Lots of kids died before they should have just a couple of generations back. Polio, measles, diphtheria, whooping cough, lock jaw that goes by the fancy name of tetanus … there are already cases of yellow fever along the Gulf Coast and Ken says we’ve been lucky not to have seen it yet along the river here.

I’m beginning to wonder if I’m ever going to be able to protect this baby from the bad stuff that can happen. Isn’t that a mother’s job? To protect her baby? But what if I do something stupid and thoughtless and my baby has to suffer the consequences?

Rand and I talked about it some after dinner. He’s concerned but there is only so much he can do. He’s trying to keep us fed and clothed right now and give us a little “money in the bank” in case things get tough this summer. Some out of towner paid him in old silver coins to thresh a truck load of wheat and while we can't eat silver it's been set aside for "just in case."

Rand seems to act like he only has ten weeks until the world could be coming to an end again. I’ve seen this calendar he’s made up. Seriously. I don’t have the heart to tell him that Ken thinks I might be further along because I’m getting so big so quickly. But I think that Ken has said some things to Rand that they aren’t letting me in on. Drives me batty.

Coincidentally ten weeks is how much time I’m “supposed” to have until the baby is born. According to The Book … that’s how Rand talks about it like it is in caps … the baby weighs about three pounds. The little spud has eyelashes and eyebrows and is supposed to be able to recognize light and dark and even track light it sees outside its momma’s belly. But it can’t come out and play yet, its lungs aren't near ready.

That doesn’t mean the baby can’t freak me the heck out though because I swear I thought I was going to have the little tadpole this morning. That’s why Ken came by again today. Turns out it was fake labor, these things called Braxton-Hicks. They are kind of like your body is practicing for labor but isn’t really in labor. Ken said I would know when it was real labor because it would hurt. Great. Just what I wanted to hear.

Now I’m off to bed and I hope that I actually get to sleep through the night. Seems like I’m getting up at least once or twice to go to the bathroom now. And last night I even had to wake Rand up to help me get out of bed ‘cause I had to go so bad. Talk about embarrassing. I’m not sure he was awake enough to do much good but give me a little push but it was enough that both of us giggled a little after dinner when I bumped my belly on the table trying to stand up. Austin wanted to know what the joke was. Wish I could have explained it but I’m not sure I understand what was so funny either.

May 5th – Gosh I’ve been so moody lately. I cry for no reason or turn around and feel mad for no reason. I told Rand that he might as well send me to live with the chickens at this rate, at least he’d get more sleep. Then he made me cry buckets by telling me he wouldn’t have me any other way and that as soon as the baby was born I’d feel more like my old self.

I hope not too much like my old self; I want to be better than that. I need to be better than that so that I can be as good a Momma as my Momma was.

For now though I’m just feeling scared. So much death around. Ken was right to have us wait on thinking we’d gotten lucky. The measles hit the immigrant camp. It isn’t the little kids that have it bad though; it is the college age people. That would be people Rand’s age or thereabouts. I’m glad Rand had his booster for college but a lot of his friends that didn’t go to college aren’t sure whether they are still protected or not.

Planted some more okra today but just about passed out from the heat. I can’t get away from it, it follows around behind me like my belly is in front of me. Rand came in from threshing and found me threatening to shave myself ball headed and run around without a stitch on.

He said, “I’d like to see that … the second part, not the first. I’ll go to the Trade Shack and see if they have …”

“No, don’t do that. It’s too late and too hot to do the mules like that for something stupid like this. I just need to lay down for a little while. Can you and Austin eat leftover beans and cornbread? I’ll make a salad to go with it but the idea of heating up the stove again …”

“We’re fine. If we want a salad we know how to fix it. You go lay down in the hammock.”

“I’ll lay down but not in the hammock. Last time I got in that thing I nearly didn’t get out. And besides the bugs will be out soon. Rand I’m sorry that I’m so slow. I’ve still got weeks to go and I’m not being much help at all.”

“Do you hear me complaining?” he laughed. “I might actually finally be able to catch up with you for a change.”

So I did lay down and I actually slept for a little while. Rand and Austin are taking a late shower to try and cool down themselves and then we are all going to go to bed. It just doesn’t make any sense to sit around miserable when we are this hot and tired.

May 6th – Hot, hot, hot. I don’t remember it being this bad last year. Filled the tub with cold water and just wallowed in it like an old pig. I swear, my belly works as well as a life preserver; could barely stay down in the water ‘cause I kept popping up. And no, I don’t find it funny at all, especially when I’m trying to climb out without help. Grrr.

May 7th – Church today but Rand didn’t want me to go. He told me to stay in bed for as long as I wanted. I got up after they left anyway but I walked around the house in as few clothes as I could handle. No one was around to see my scars and stretch marks so I thought I’d take advantage of the peace.

When the guys came home for lunch I had a cold garden salad ready for them. I also had some cornbread and cold buttermilk ready. Dinner was empanadas that Ram had sent over after hearing how much the heat was getting to me. The dirty rat seems to thrive on it. If it gets below 70 degrees Ram acts like he's going to freeze to death so the 90s are balmy weather to him.

But as it turns out I’m not the only one suffering with the heat and that it isn’t my imagination that it is hotter than it was last year. As a matter of fact it is hotter than it has been in several years. People’s gardens are suffering and it is only the beginning of May. There was a special prayer for rain ‘cause if this keeps up we are going to be in a lot of trouble before too much longer.

May 9th – Death, death, death. It seems to follow me where ever I go. You’d think after everything I’d expect and accept it more. But death is the one thing guaranteed to make me feel like fighting no matter what. Rand practically ordered me to bed yesterday. It made me so mad on top of everything else but I didn’t have to do anything because Missy frogged him in the arm really hard for me and told him to stop being such a pig.

She all but duck walked me into the bedroom, calmed me down and I somehow wound up lying down and resting when I hadn’t meant to. I was beginning to drift off when I heard Missy quietly leave the room.

“Ow!” Rand yelled. “Stop hitting me Missy! Once was enough already.”

“Shhh! You deserve it you idiot. You’d think you would be smarter by now,” she hissed back at him.

“Huh?” I heard him ask, more quietly than before.

“How long have you and Kiri been together? You really think she’s going to take the news about Tommy calmly? We’re all a little nuts over it but you know how Kiri is about the boys. Look at Austin and Mick out there. Didn’t you see her? The first thing she did was step between them and that guy that was with Ram and that was before she’d heard the news. I’ve seen her do it before and she doesn’t even realize she’s doing it. Mick told me one time that every once in a while she’ll call him ‘Michael’ like she is mixing him up with her little brother."

“I … I guess I didn’t think. All I saw was that she was getting … You know I worry about her. She can just get so … so …”

“Rand, she’s been through a lot in her life. And admit it, she’s a lot more capable than you want to give her credit for being. Not to mention that you’re just like Dad … over protective.”

“It’s not that. I love that she is who and what she is. But you don’t know some of the stuff … some days she seems so fragile. And with this baby she just seems … I’m worried Missy.”

“You mean you’re scared. Don’t you think Bill was scared before I had the baby … and a few times since. Don’t you think that Dad has gone slightly demented each time one of us get preggars? And don’t you think we all understand how what happened to Laurabeth could happen to any of us? Trust me Cuz, we’ve all been dealing with the boogey-men-that-could-be right along beside you.”

Rand gave a deep sigh, “I know. I … I don’t know what I would do if anything happened to her. And it’s not just because I couldn’t raise a baby by myself either. I’m scared what is going to happen to her if … if something happens to the baby. She hasn’t said much but … Missy, what if something happens to the baby and she gets so angry she wants to leave me to get away from it all? You saw how Laurabeth was. You’re right, Kiri has already fought some battles she never should have had to. What happens …”

I got the sense that Missy had reached out to Rand in some way. “You aren’t going to like hearing this Rand anymore than I like saying it. Sometimes there isn’t a thing you can do about the “what if’s” and you just have to deal with the “what are’s.”

“Easy for you to say,” Rand grumbled.

“No. No it really isn’t Rand. I don’t like admitting it but I’ve had to grow up in ways that maybe I never would have if I hadn’t met Bill and if the world hadn’t fallen apart. I would have been my mom all over again and that would have been a disaster. My step mom wasn’t much better either. She wanted Dad to be like he was and yet she never really appreciated it. Kiri … Kiri’s good for you. She’ll stand up to you without pouting or pulling that passive aggressive stuff that Julia used to. At the same time, she gives into you enough because she wants … well genius, in case you’ve missed it Kiri is afraid of losing you too. Look how she was after those Russians …”

“Yeah, don’t remind me. The risks she took give me worse nightmares than the beating does. Look, you’d tell me if she said anything about … about being scared or whatever? Right? I know I can’t protect her – or me – from everything, but I don’t want her to build those walls of hers back up. I think that is what scares me the most, something happening and her doing what Laurabeth has done.”

“Relax Cuz, Kiri has already walked that road and I think she’s got sense enough to pick a different path if ever faced with something like that again. I only wish I could say the same for Dad and Alicia. They are both so tore up you’d think Dad had raised Tommy was his own and he’s pretrified that Janet is going to go the same way even though that can’t happen since she must have had every vaccine known to man since birth. You know how Dad has always been about that stuff. Between the Vet for the cattle and the Peditrician for us kids, it would have been cheaper if Dad had just gone to medical school himself. And Alicia … she’s so angry she doesn’t know what to do with it all. Brendan took her out to the hay barn, shut the door and just let her beat on the bales out there to work it off. I think she’s got some of it out of her system but Alicia is one of the ‘still waters run deep’ kind of people and it is just going to take a while.”

Rand asked, “How’s Mick taking it?”

“About like you’d expect. I think Dad is missing it. Bill tried to talk to Mick but he’s just shut himself up. But Ron … I don’t know but I think Laurabeth asked Ron to say something and maybe it took because right before we came over here Mick finally sat down and cried some. I was beginning to wonder if he would.”

Even as I felt myself falling asleep while they continued to talk – my body betraying me again or maybe trying to save me despite myself – I realized that Rand really was a whole lot like Uncle George, in ways I’d never really seen before. He could be over protective to the point of making me a little crazy sometimes. Maybe Julia liked that, heck even I like the idea of it if not the reality, but it isn’t healthy and I’m glad I’ve put my foot down a few times … for both our sakes. And I have a feeling that Rand has put up with a lot from me that another guy wouldn’t have just like Uncle George put up with stuff from his wife. It gave me something to think about besides poor Tommy.

When I woke up the late afternoon sun had already run to the other side of the house and the room was pretty dark. I was disoriented at first and then I remembered. Oh God. Tommy. Poor Tommy.

He hadn’t been feeling well but no one really remarked on it. He is … was … so pale and fair and the heat never did do him any good. Everyone just thought that was what it was, and it may have been at first. No spots so there wasn’t anything to worry about, or so was thought. Then in the night he woke Mick up having some kind of seizure. Missy said that Ken called it a febrile seizure. Missy said his temperature went over 105 degrees F the few times they could actually get a reading because he kept having the seizures. Not even bathing him in fresh well water would bring the fever down.

There isn’t really anyway to say for sure but apparently Ken said that Tommy had one of the rarest of complications from measles – encephalitis. That’s where your brain swells. It only happens in about 1 in 1000 cases, but it does happen. That’s why measles can be so dangerous.

I asked them how they had known it was measles when he didn’t have spots. Bill, who had brought Missy and Mick over, said that Tommy had Koplick Spots inside his mouth. Those are little white spots that are the precursor for the red rash that breaks out on the body. I never knew any of that. It is scary how much I don’t know.

Today has been about like you would expect. They buried Tommy last night. I know that seems like a rush but what choice did they have in this heat? No funeral homes, no ice houses … the alternative is pretty well unthinkable for me. I had a nightmare about that house I got the food from when I was biking up here for the first time in I don’t know how long. I spent a long time in the bathroom puking when I jumped out of bed in the middle of the night.

Austin has spent a lot of time with the animals but I think he’ll be OK. He keeps asking me though am I for sure that my MMR is up to date. I think he is scared for the baby now. He was talking and talking and talking about being a big brother and suddenly he won’t say boo about it. I guess there is a lot of stuff we are all too afraid to talk about.

May 10th – Travel is still restricted in our community. We’ve heard that measles cases are being reported up and down the river now. The military has gotten involved. They are quarantining areas and blocking roads for all the good that will do. When people want to slip out and around, they’ll find a way. There is a lot of talk that maybe the pirates are doing it on purpose as there’s been some rumors that some raiding parties have kidnapped infected kids and they’ve just turned up in places further up or down the river, unharmed. Weird.

We are all sad but as unconscionable as it seems life must go on. We’ve got Austin and the baby to think about and the animals count on us too. Threshing has pretty much come to a halt so Rand has been around and has been working on our own fields for a change. We've had to do a lot of irrigating. Boy, do we need rain desperately.

I made Red Onion Jam today to use up some of those big, red hamburger onions that seem to like the back corner of the garden so much. I peeled and julienned three cups of those onions and then poured over them one and a half cup of apple juice and three quarter cup of red wine vinegar. The kitchen really stunk and Rand walked in only to turn around and walk back out again and say that he and Austin would eat their lunch on the porch if I didn’t mind and did I really think those fumes were good for the baby. I laughed for the first time in days. I’ll take onion fumes over cabbage fumes any day of the week.

Next I added one teaspoon of dried sage, a half a teaspoon of ground black pepper, five cups of white sugar mixed with one half cup of brown sugar, and lastly a half teaspoon of margarine to draw out the sugar in the onions and help them caramelize. I put the whole mess on high heat and brought it to a full rolling boil, added my pectin, and then boiled it until the syrup jelled. Then I put it in prepared jars and processed them.

Ram showed up for lunch claiming that he’d been following the odor of the onions for the last two miles. I would have thrown something at him if I hadn’t been so eager to hear how the Crenshaws were doing.

“Very sad. Very sad. But that is as it should be and now they will heal, even Alicia. She knows that Tommy is in Heaven and that she will see his sweet face again. That brings her great comfort. It will just take time … for all of us. The boy was … he was gentle, kind, and …” Ram turned away to blow his nose and none of us needed him to continue. Tommy was fragile in a bad way and I’d always worried about how he was going to grow up and be able to survive. I imagined Mick would protect him but that couldn’t have lasted forever. And now … I guess I’ll just have to add the why of it to the long list of questions I want the answer to when I see Him in person. Life just sucks sometimes and it’s rarely fair. I don’t understand why it has to be like that.

May 11th – Potatoes. They are beautiful.

Well, not really. Actually they are brown and dirty and give me the chills when I picked them up out of the sand without gardening gloves on but even so they’ve got a specialness to them that goes beyond looks. Bless Ram for sending these to me.

We aren’t the only ones in the area growing potatoes. Some people were smart enough to hang onto some from before the trains stopped running, but our potato field is the largest though nowhere near as large as we one day want it to be. If it wasn’t for Fraidy I doubt we would have had anything. She has done her job on the moles and we’ve got what looks like a fox in the area that has a den of kits doing a job on the ones in the fields.

We did have a few plants on the outside rows that got hit but not too bad. If the rows had been any shorter it would have been bad but like I wrote, we had enough that losing a few to moles didn’t hurt too bad. I’ve already got the dehydrators full of slices that are drying.

Alicia came by today to help. Brendon brought her and the baby and I think it did them good. Austin just hugged on her and hugged on her and she admitted that Mick had been doing the same.

“Kiri, part of me feels like my heart is broken permanently but … but another part of me? I have to say that … oh this is going to sound just awful.”

“Alicia, compared to some of the things that have come out of my mouth I doubt you could say anything that would shock me or be that bad,” I told her.

“Kiri, I’m … I’m relieved,” and she burst into tears.

Well, it wasn’t exactly what I expected to hear but I let her finish so that I wouldn’t put my foot in my mouth.

“It is like a circle has closed. I always worried about Tommy. He was … you know Daddy and the damage he did to … well … I was always scared that Tommy was going to turn out like our mother, unable to cope with real life. I’d see signs of it every once in a while. He was getting better than he used to be but … it’s like a circle has closed. Mom then Dad and now Tommy. Like a chapter has closed. God, I’m an awful person.”

“Alicia, I can’t even pretend to understand. I saw some pretty wicked things from the kids in foster care and well, life pretty much bites really bad sometimes. Instead of beating yourself up over being relieved, why don’t you just be happy for Tommy.”

This time it was my turn to shock her. “What?”

“You know, all that stuff that Ken is always talking about. Tommy’s got it, he’s living it. In Heaven … no tears, no pain, no worries, all of it. Maybe it would be nice for us if he’d been destined to stay here but, for whatever reason … Look, I haven’t got a whole lot of room to talk. I got really messed up after my parents and little brother died. I was awful mad for a long time. But in the end you can’t change what has happened and if you really love someone you … you want what is best for them. In this case maybe staying with us wouldn’t have been the best thing for Tommy. Life is hard enough these days without … you know … being unable to cope with … with stuff.” I shrugged too afraid of saying anything more and really messing things up.

We kept peeling potatoes, both of us lost in our own thoughts. I don’t think of my little brother very much. For one thing it hurts and for another … he was just eight and it seems so long ago that he was in my life. But for a little while I gave some thought to all the good memories I had … playing pioneer in his little red wagon, putting up with my Barbies getting drafted by his GI Joes, coming home from camp to find that he wouldn’t sleep in his bed and had spent the week sleeping in mine, the forts we built together, the holes we had tried to dig to China. He could be weird and obnoxious but he was my little brother and I loved him. I hope that Alicia has some good memories in there that she can hang onto and not just the ones where her parents were so awful.

In addition to the potatoes that we sliced for drying we canned several loads of the smaller potatoes. Even doing it outside we both were soaked through with sweat by lunch time. We’d made sandwiches for a really early lunch because we wanted to have dinner before they left for the Crenshaw place but we didn't want the guys to eat too much and then get sick working in the heat. By the time we had everythong on the table I almost couldn’t eat I was that done in.

We fixed mashed potatoes, cornbread, sliced tomatoes, greens, and for the occasion I fried up a chicken that had started coming at us claws first anytime we tried to get near the chicken coop. Rand said he’d never seen such an aggressive chicken; roosters yes, chicken no. She’d never really laid eggs either. Rand thought that maybe she was a hormonally mixed up chicken, one that thought she was a rooster. You get those every once in a while. I remember Momma saying, “A whistling woman and a crowing hen always come to some bad end.” Well, I guess for a chicken being dinner rather than the guest is just about as bad an end as you can come to.

After Brendon, Alicia, and the baby left I did the few remaining dishes and then told Rand that I was taking a shower and to call me when summer was over. I noticed Austin was pretty tired at dinner and sure enough as I passed his room he was a sleep across his bed. I hadn’t been in the shower a minute before I got company. There was barely room for the two of us in there at the same time but everything worked out to our mutual enjoyment.

Rand left Austin asleep and put the animals up by himself. He was a sweaty mess when he came back in and had to take another shower, this time by himself. I’ve thrown sheets over all the cushions. No matter where to sit or how few clothes you have on you still get sweaty. The sheets help some but not as much as I’d like and I think I’m going to have to take the covers off the sofa and chair cushions and wash them and pray they don’t shrink. I might have to wash the cushions too or at least try and rinse them. Everything smells of sweat and BO these days.

Tomorrow is supposed to be Baking Day but I can barely stand the idea of getting the oven going. It might be good to keep the baking to a minimum anyway. While we’ve got more than a little flour – both from our own crop and from the shares people pay for Rand to run the thresher and grinder – we need to be conscious of being frugal because just because we have it today doesn’t mean that we can get it tomorrow. I might do laundry instead, or at least our sheets. The pillows too. Maybe Rand will help me wash my hair. Maybe I'll just spend the day sitting in the wash tub if it is going to be hot again.

Or maybe I’ll wait until after the Swap Meet on Saturday. I’ve heard folks are real eager for Missy and Bill to have their stand open. The outbreak and then … then Tommy’s passing … has kept the Trade Shack closed for a while and it caught the community off guard. They’ve become dependent on the Shack for trade goods and for news. There will be as much gossiping as bartering going on most likely.

But now it is time for me to try and get some sleep, assuming Junior will let me. I’ve got a watermelon that’s a night owl inside me.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Chapter Ninety-One

Chapter 91

April 20th – Is this what “nesting” is? This driving need to make sure everything is clean and ready for the baby? Isn’t it a little early to be feeling this? Maybe not. The few people I’ve mentioned it to make it seem like it is some cute, temporary insanity all pregnant women go through. It makes me feel like they are patting me on the head and humoring me and that drives me up the wall even in the best of times. And these aren’t the best of times.

Despite all of my promises to myself not to worry things to death, it looks like maybe I’ve had good reason to worry … well, if not worry at least to be concerned. We heard this morning that raids have started up again along the river. No one is for sure if it is the same group because the methods of attack are different. It might not even be river pirates but people trying to make it look like river pirates or land raiders using the river as a temporary refuge to get them from point A to point B. No one knows … because no survivors of any of the attacks have been found.

People look like they are missing but because of how badly burned over some of the small homesteads and towns are the missing are either unidentifiable from the remains that are found or there is simply too much ground to cover to see if someone ran off or crawled off and died in the undergrowth.

I try not and dwell on it but the only way I can get away from it is to try and get my chores done. The weather has been really nice so it has actually be good to work outside. The best thing that came out of the garden today was my first sweet Spanish onions. For dinner I actually made sausage dogs with all the onions and peppers we could handle … and I’m paying for it. That’s what I’m doing sitting up here at the kitchen table with the solar lamp while Rand and Austin are asleep.

Trying to keep my mind off of the terrible indigestion I gave myself from pigging out I’ve been making a list of what I have in the garden and what I can expect out of the orchard. Last month I planted bush beans, pole beans, lima beans, cantaloupes, carrots, collard greens, sweet corn, cucumbers, eggplant, endive, lettuce, romaine, kohlrabi, mustard greens, okra, green onions, English peas, black eyed peas, peppers, potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, radish, summer squash, winter squash, tomatoes, turnips, and watermelon. I planted more of the same for successive harvests. The greens I harvest daily and the peppers are really coming in now too … bell to sweet to hot, seems you can never have too many peppers.

I planted too much cabbage. The heads this season are huge and if I have to smell cooking cabbage one more time I think I’m gonna hurl. I’ve made as much sauerkraut and I can stand to make. I’ve dried it until it looks like confetti. I’ve canned a ton of slaw. I’ve shredded the stuff and tried to hide it in some of the casseroles I’ve made. I’m just plain tired of looking at cabbage. I know I’m being ungrateful but this Sunday for the dinner on the grounds I’m making a huge bowl of cole slaw to try and “bless” some other folks with the bounty God’s dumped on us.

The mayhaws will be coming in soon and I can’t wait. The next sorghum crop needs to be planted before the end of the month and I hope to get my gladiolus bulbs in the ground in the next day or so too. Whoops, Rand is looking for me so looks like it is off to bed whether I can stand it or not. If I don’t go, he’ll want to sit with me and I won’t do that to him.

April 21st – Today was baking day and I’ve decided to write down the whole process for posterity … or at least for the baby’s memory book. First off, you have to have the wheat to grind. I’m still using some that was in Rand’s feed barrels. We’re using the older stuff before we start using the grain that we grew ourselves. Rand calls it FIFO … first in, first out.

According to one of Momma’s books on the subject of baking, the whole wheat kernel or berry is made up of distinct parts, all of which contribute to the high quality nutritional value of the wheat. The wheat has high amounts of vitamins A, E and B. Wheat berries found in the tombs of the pharaohs in Egypt and examined still contained the full range of 26 vitamins and minerals, over 2000 years after it had been harvested; you have to admit that is something amazing. The outside of the kernel is called the bran. Bran is good for the fiber that the body needs as well as helping to regulate cholesterol. It helps to detoxify the body which is an important function in our society where toxins assault us from every angle. The wheat germ is the part of the kernel that sprouts. It holds the life of the wheat, the ability to produce plants like itself. It has the highest density of vitamins B and E in the wheat. This is where wheat germ oil is found, a healthy oil that helps the body absorb vitamins that are not water soluble. Finally, the endosperm is the part of the wheat berry that holds the starch. This is the only part left in white flour. It is only the starch which breaks down into sugar in the body, and is meant as a food source for the plant as it grows, before the leaves come out and photosynthesis begins.

I know I need to teach Austin this stuff too and I keep making notes but by the time I’ve thought about something and bring it up Austin will generally say, “I know, Rand told me.” I’m not sure if that makes me feel useless or not. I’m glad that Rand is teaching Austin but, I thought I was supposed to have a hand in it someplace too.

Anyway, about making bread from scratch, now that I’ve got the structure of the wheat out of the way the next part of the equation is the grinder. There used to be all sorts of grinders on the market. Looking at Momma’s books and at the old magazines in Daddy’s files makes me think that some folks sure had it easy. I have a couple of different grinders but mostly I have to use the hand powered ones though Rand has said that when he gets more deep cycle batteries he is going to set the kitchen up so that I can use some of the old “convenience appliances” like the blender, food processor, and electric grinder on a regular basis.

The first hand grinder I have is for small batches. It bolts onto the table, you feed the grain into the hopper, and then you turn the crank handle and the flour is spit out into a bowl I have strategically placed below the grinding area. I like this grinder when I’m only doing a small amount of flour or when I want cracked wheat instead of flour or I’m making flour or meal out of harder grains like corn or legumes.

The other grinder I have is a Country Living Grain Mill. This is the grinder I use when I need to make larger batches of flour. The wheel on this mill is really big and Rand has set it up so that a belt can be placed on the large wheel and run to a bicycle wheel and peddling the bicycle powers the grinder. Now that my backside is too wide for the seat, Austin has to help first thing on Baking Day to make sure I have enough flour for everything I plan to do on those days.

First thing you want to do is keep your grain on the cool side as it is ground, that’s why I do mine first thing in the morning. If the grain gets too warm, or the resulting flour, it kind of develops this rancid odor and the flour has an off taste that can’t be baked out. It is also a good habit to never grind any more grain than what you need in a single day. I’ve goofed, or gotten distracted doing other things, so sometimes I have to bag it and put it in the cooler but not too many people have that advantage so stick with just making what you need each day.

According to one of Momma’s books, the first loaves of bread were made of loosely ground grains mixed with water and then flattened out and dried in the sun. I can’t really see trying to pass that off at the dinner table these days. But you don’t just treat fresh ground whole wheat flour the way you would the bleached white stuff that you used to get at the grocery store either. It is a different texture and has the whole grain in it, not just the starchy part.

This is how I make one of my favorite loaves of whole wheat bread. You start with one and a half cups of water. The water should be lukewarm (body temperature) to help dissolve one quarter cup of honey and support the growth of the packet of dry yeast. Honey is for flavor and also food for the yeast. Adding a quarter cup of vegetable oil makes for a cake-like texture and helps the bread stay moist. And the two tablespoons of salt brings out the taste of all the ingredients.

Combine the ingredients, including three and one-half cups of whole wheat flour, one at a time, in a large bowl – starting with the liquids and ending with the flour one cup at a time and keeping a half cup aside until the dough is ready to knead on the table top.

Blend everything with a spoon and/or your hands until it begins to form a lump. Then lightly dust the table top with some of the remaining flour, turn the mound out of the bowl, and let it rest for 10 minutes. According to the notes in the margin of Momma’s recipe book this is so the flour can more fully absorb the water.

Next, dust your hands with a little of the extra flour and begin kneading as follows: (1) gently push the dough away from you so that it flattens out, (2) give it a quarter turn and (3) fold it in half toward you. Think of it as push, turn, and fold. Repeat the process as many as 100 times, dusting your hands and the table to prevent the dough from sticking. The key here is to make sure the dough stays moist and soft – so add just enough flour during the kneading to keep the dough from becoming stiff and dry. When the kneading is done, the dough will be soft and tender like the lobe of your ear which sounds stupid but is really true if you’ve ever stopped to compare the two..

Pour a little oil into the mixing bowl, and roll the kneaded dough inside the bowl so that it is coated with the oil. Cover the bowl with a dishcloth and let it double in size in a corner of the kitchen where there are no drafts. After about an hour, punch it down in the bowl to release the bubbles made by the yeast. Turn it back onto the table top and knead it another 25 to 50 times. Shape the dough into a ball, and press it into a greased bread pan (8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inches). Cover it with a cloth, and let it rise until it’s about a half inch over the brim of the pan. Bake it at 350 degrees F for 45 to 60 minutes. To know if it is done, remove it from the pan and tap the bottom. A clear hollow sound means it’s fully baked. Set it on a wire rack and let it cool. It is actually still baking until it reaches room temperature. But in this case, temptation has its rewards and it is a true temptation for me not to sit down and eat slice after slice with fresh butter or jam.

April 22nd – No swap meet this week. Feels like forever since I’ve been to one. I’ll be going to the next one, or at least I plant to. Need to be a little more careful about putting the cart before the horse. You never know what kind of curve ball life is going to throw at you.

I’ve been a little sad today. We didn’t know one of the does was pregnant. She always looked all poked out on the sides like she ate better than good. When Rand and Austin went to feed the animals Austin came in afterwards looking like he’d been crying and walked straight to his room without a word. I looked at Rand who’d come in behind him looking grim.

“That doe, the one with the really soft ears that Austin has made a bet of a pet out of, she gave birth to twins and one of them didn’t make it.”

“I didn’t know she was …”

“I didn’t either. I think the doe is going to be all right. For all she is so dainty she’s a touch one. But I’m not sure about the remaining kid. It’s a doelet and a lot smaller than she should be. The bucklet that died was twice her size.”

With no vet we have to rely on books and experience when it comes to the animals but sometimes that isn’t enough. You can’t always save them. Heck, sometimes you don’t even know they are sick until it is too late. The other day one of my original hens was just pecked to death by the other chickens. I still don’t know why. Rand said she could have been sick but there wasn’t any obvious sign of it. She was a good layer too so it is really weird.

Tonight before we locked up the house Austin was in a better mood when Rand said the doelet is doing better but her size makes him wonder if he should counter her out of the future breeding pool in case she has some kind of genetic damage. She is a sweet looking little thing but its hard to keep animals only as pets and Austin knows that. I see him resisting the urge to get attached … because if she isn’t a breeder she is food. As harsh as that is, it is only a reflection of the world we live in.

April 23rd – “It only takes a spark to get a fire going,
The soon all those around can warm up to its glowing.”

Those are the first two lines of an old church camp song I remember my Mom singing to me when I was little. Could have been the song those cultist were singing for all I know as they sat around their campfire in the woods. Or maybe it was Kum-ba-yah or who knows what. Probably doesn’t matter but their carelessness led to the agonizing deaths of three-quarters of their members not to mention the deaths of two families of migrants holed up at an abandoned farm in O’Brien.

Ken – pastor, doctor, counselor, arbitrator, mediator, news correspondent. Events that happen in the community get relayed to the rest of us, sometimes via the pulpit, and this time with a reminder that there is a VFD any longer. We can save ourselves best by taking simple precautions to prevent catastrophes like fires. The sermon went along with his admonitions coming from Proverbs 9.

The slaw was a big hit. So were the hush puppies, fish, and cradaddies that were cooked up fresh right there thanks to one of our new families. The girl that died in childbirth not too long ago was their daughter in law.

Rand thinks I’m imagining things but I swear I’m not. And I think that Uncle George is guiding things along. Laurabeth was sitting on a blanket in the shade with Freddie. Men kept coming over to say hello … women too but mostly unattached men from my observations. I didn’t think anything of it at first, the Crenshaws are a popular family and well liked and people are happy to see Laurabeth getting better. She is most definitely better but she’s been touched for life. There are lines at the corner of her eyes ten years before there should have, her grief maturing her physically as well as emotionally. Well, it looked like Ron Harbinger could only stand to stay apart from this for so long. He started hovering around Laurabeth. Rand said he was just being protective because of Freddie but to me it looked like more than that.

Then Ron was looking at Laurabeth and he gets this funny look on his face and then it went blank. He backed up two steps … right into Uncle George who was grinning like he had a secret. Uncle George clapped him on the should and suggested that both Laurabeth and Freddie could use a walk. Ron’s mouth opens and closes a couple of times but Uncle George just keeps that smile on his face and tells Ron to go on and that some of the daffodils were still blooming in the old park nature trail and that Laurabeth was fond of them. Eventually Ron gave in but you could see he was a bit reluctant … not reluctant because he didn’t want to but reluctant ‘cause he was a little scared maybe.

I’m pretty sure that Laurabeth is oblivious to it. I’m not sure what I think. For one thing it’s none of my doggone business but on the other hand I feel I’ve got a bond with Laurabeth that wasn’t there before. I guess it is just creeping me out a little bit to see her life being manipulated from the sidelines like that. I know I wouldn’t like it being done to me but Laurabeth is a different person. Do I say something or do I keep my nose out of it?

I’ve decided that I’m going to keep my nose out of it … at least temporarily. Maybe I’ll ask Ron, but from the look on his face he might bolt if I do say something. I could ask Uncle George but he could tell me to mind my own business. I could say something to Missy but then she might say something thoughtless … though she isn’t as bad about that as she pretends to be. I don’t know, guess I’ll just have to wait and see how things turn out.

When we got home we were full as a family of ticks and Rand said not to bother cooking which was a nice break for me. We try and keep work light on Sundays but that doesn’t mean all we do is rest. The animals still have to be tended to, so does the garden, and sometimes I have a little preserving or sewing to do … but by and large we didn’t have any problems today.

I made popped wheat today and I can’t say that it is something that I would want to eat every day but it is fun for a change of pace. I had cooked up some wheat this morning but it didn’t all get eaten for breakfast so tonight I took the cooked wheat and “puffed” it in hot oil. The oil needs to be about 375 degrees F and you fry the cooked wheat for about two minutes before removing and draining really well. A lot of people salt them but I put a little cinnamon and sugar on mine and it was really good.

Austin and Rand were a little hungrier than they had thought they were going to be so I fixed them a garden salad and gave them a slice of bread, butter, and jam and that filled their empty spots. And now I’m just about all done in so I’m going to bed and I hope I get to sleep through the night this time. I swear seems like no matter what I do I have to get up a time or two in the night and go to the bathroom. Luckily we don’t have an outhouse or this would be no fun at all.

April 24th – Started harvesting the mayhaws today. You do not want to eat those things raw … ew, shiver, gak, spit. But the mayhaw jelly I made today was incredible. Crazy how something so icky turned into something so delicious I had to hide the jelly jars behind the lima beans in the pantry to keep Rand and Austin out of them.

Mayhaws aren’t very big, maybe half an inch to an inch in diameter. According to Momma’s book on the subject they are a type of Hawthorne native to the US. I had to throw a bird net over the tree because as soon as the birds saw what I was doing they came flying in. Woofer and Fraidy (now able to leave her kittens a little more) helped with some of the blackbirds but the smaller birds escaped them. But with birds in the garden I have noticed I haven’t had as many problems with locusts as some of the neighbors are reporting. The geese get their fair share of the insects as well and I’ve watched them drive off birds they think are invading their turf.

I wound up having to call Austin to help get the nets on the trees. I probably lost a couple of pounds to the birds but I still managed to pick about fifteen pounds from the trees and there is a lot of fruit still ripening. For the mayhaw jelly I took three pounds of washed berries and added four cups of water and brought it to a boil and then covered and simmered for about ten minutes. Then I ran the resulting water and pulp through cheese cloth to collect the juice. I added the pectin to that juice and brought it to a full rolling boil and then added five and a half cups of sugar and continued stirring until it returned to a hard boil again. At that point I set the timer and cooked, stirring constantly, for another full minute and then took it off of the heat source. I had foam on only one of my batches so I skimmed it off and then bottled it and ran it in the boiling water canner. The jelly sure was pretty with the sun shining through it.

April 25th – Momma O and Mrs. Withrow came by today visiting. They caught me taking a cat nap in the rocking chair on the porch. I was pretty embarrassed but at least I could tell them it was because I’d planted several more rows of dried beans in my bean gardens. They were in Momma O’s buggy but they were driven by that boy that lives with Mrs. Withrow. I set out cookies and cool apple juice in dishes that I keep for company and the boy wouldn’t touch the plates. When I told him he could have his on a napkin if he’d rather he finally relaxed and sat on the porch steps just as happy as a lark. He was so enthralled watching a ladybug that Mrs. W had to remind him to eat.

Mostly they seem to have come by just to exchange gossip but I think they were also pumping me for information on when Rand is going to have the incline machine finished and hooked up to the grinder. I told them that Rand said he wants to have everything read for ust to take to the next swap meet. I hope I didn’t speak out of turn because I have a feeling that the news is going to be all over the tri-county area within a few days.

April 26th – Rand laughed at me last night when I told him about telling Mrs. W and Momma O about the incline and grinder. He said not to worry, that all I had done was save him some work on the advertising end of things. I really need to watch that gossiping habit I’ve fallen into. I know I don’t like people talking about me behind my back, whether for good or ill, and I’m turning into a hypocrite by doing it to other people. That’s really not nice. It’s a fine line between getting news and gossiping like an old hen and I need to remember what the difference is before I get myself in trouble.

April 27th – Planted more beans again today. I think Rand is humoring me about the beans. I think they’ll come in handy and I know he likes when I thicken gravy using bean flour instead of plain flour. As a matter of fact I made some more bean flour today by taking some of the dried beans I have that are getting really hard and grinding them up into a fine powder.

Now I could use a pressure cooker to cook really old dried beans and they are just about as good as fresh but at the same time it isn’t always worth my while to do that. I’ve been supplying some beans to Ram to take and trade on his infernal trading route and he’s never made it very far before they are all gone. If Rand is going to be an “investor” in that blasted Company of Rogues that Ram has going the least I can do is support him. He’s put up with enough of my crazy ideas. Missy just reminded me to keep some of my more unusual heirloom varieties for seeds so that I can use them at the Trade Shack.

Today was supposed to be cleaning day but I was too busy getting ready for a whole passle of people that will be coming tomorrow. Rand had two new fields opened up and he is planting them all in sorghum. Mr. Coffey is also helping us to build our own sorghum mill. I wondered why he’d want to give away something that he could corner the market on and Rand told me it wasn’t like that at all.

“Babe, Mr. Coffey knows he isn’t getting any younger and to be honest he isn’t sure if his grandson is going to keep the farm up after he goes. He’s not a farmer, he’s a contraption builder and that is what he is most talented at. He knows that we value his experience and wisdom. He also knows that we want to replicate what he knows, not to run him over now that he is slowing down, but as a way to imitate the best parts of his knowledge and perfect them before he’s not around to be a mentor anymore.”

“Uh, in other words he’s flattered that we want him to teach us?”

Rand laughed and said, “Yeah, basically.”

You know, sometimes I wonder where all my education went. I could stand up and talk rings around some of my opponents in debate but these days I’m just happy to be able to string some words together that my sense and get my point across. Every once in a while I’ll catch myself writing in my journal the way I used to talk but it “sounds” funny when I read it back to myself.

I worry about what I might be teaching Austin who is more comfortable saying “hither, thither, and yonder” than “here, there, and over there.” Actually, you know who I sound like? My mother! I just realized … oh my goodness. I haven’t forgotten her voice! I haven’t!! I can always hear Daddy’s voice … always … in all the rules and stuff that I have I can hear him saying them like he is standing beside me but I was losing the memory of Momma’s voice only … only … only I didn’t lose it, it was here all the time, inside me.

April 28th – Company all day long, as a matter of fact still have the boys asleep on the floor in Austin’s room. Woofer is right in the middle and it is like a puppy fest in there. Uncle George was fine with them staying over and then coming to the swap meet with us in the morning.

I’m so tired I almost can’t see straight and I won’t be up much longer. Just waiting for the last pot to finish soaking so that I can finish washing it and go to bed. Cooked three meals for over a dozen men and boys and I was the only female there though the boys did help me get the cooked food to the table.

But I won’t complain, the sorghum is all planted – two five-acre plots of it – and now we just have to trust in God for the rest of it. Even doubling our acres planted in sorghum we still have plenty of grain left. We also have a lot of sorghum molasses left so I decided to make pecan pies for dessert to use up some of the pecans from last season that won’t last much longer.

First you pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Roughly chop the pecans -- you don't want them crushed – until you have about a cup and a half of nut meats. Combine one-third of a cup of brown sugar and three eggs in a large mixing bowl and stir to combine. Add one tablespoon of cornstarch and one-quarter teaspoon of salt. Melt four tablespoons of butter and stir it in to the sugar-eggs-cornstarch mess. Add the nuts and three-quarter cup of sorghum and mix one last time. Pour everything into a prepared pie crust and tilt the dish around to make sure it's evenly distributed. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the center is firmed up bit still a bit jiggly. (Yes, that's the official cooking term: "jiggly".) Then let the pie sit for 15 minutes before cutting.

I made four pies and I swear the men could have eat three times that many. I almost didn’t have to wash the plates. I guess that means that liked it.

April 29th – We had to be up so early today to move the incline and grinder to a special spot that Mr. Henderson had set aside for us at the field. And boy, we were so busy I almost didn’t get a chance to look around. Rand and the boys were so busy running the equipment that I had to stay to help with the paper work of taking in so much weight and returning so much.

The incline is sort of like a treadmill and we use the donkey’s to run it. No matter what reinforcing Rand has tried the antique equipment just isn’t up to Bud and Lou’s weight and none of the horses want to have anything to do with the clackety old thing. The little donkeys though just plod along and are happy to get their carrot when they do a job for so long.

The incline treadmill turns the shaft that rotates the gears that in turn run the grinding wheels. Mr. Coffey helped Rand to set some different wheels up – wheat or rye, corn, and then an adjustable one. I’m not sure how the millers did it in times past but all Rand is asking as a “toll” is for every bushel of wheat that someone wants ground we get to keep five pounds of the pre-ground grain.

The scales we used were recalibrated every hour while everyone watched but there was still some grumbling. Guess people thought they were going to get something for nothing. But most people were OK with it and said they’d been worried about Rand asking for a much higher toll than what he is.

Rand says one of the reasons why he is diversifying our income sources like he is is so that he doesn’t have to charge so high a price on any single item or service. I think he is underselling himself but he says that you have to have a balance. I guess that is true. I feel funny sometimes when I know how much Missy is getting for the mixes and stuff that I made for her.

Today I brought her cake mixes … spice cake, carrot cake, apple coffee cake, and chocolate cake. The chocolate cake got bid up ridiculously and even Missy felt bad and said that she’d only take so much and that if others really were interested they could put their names down on a waiting list. I’ve got almost two dozen orders for chocolate cake mixes for the next swap meet. Good thing I’m not much of a chocoholic and don’t mind parting with some of the cocoa in those giant tubs of the stuff I have.

It took Rand most of the day to get everything ground that people wanted ground. We came home with a lot more than I expected we would. But finally Rand decided to shut up shop about two hours before the swap meet was over and said that if enough people could get together on a given day, and if he could schedule it out far enough in advance, he’d pull the milling equipment to a central location and work things out.

Mr. Henderson told Rand, rather than hauling the milling equipment all over the place, if he wanted to set up in the empty lot across from the ranch he’d provide security … for shares of course. I like Mr. Henderson but I’m under no illusion that he isn’t out to make his ranch as successful as possible.

Saw Cassie today, she seemed … something. I don’t know if it is sad or just what. When I mentioned it to Rand he said that Mitch was “walking out” with a young woman he’d dated in highschool for a while.

“Uh oh. Is there going to be trouble?”

“No, don’t think so. Mr. Henderson seems happy with the changes in Cassie … she’s grown up the last couple of months I guess … but he is under no illusion that she’d be easy to get along with in marriage. And he likes Mitch enough that he wants to see him happy. He would have liked to tie things up neat and tidy with Mitch and Cassie making it a go of it together but he’s realist to know you can’t dictate stuff like that just because that is how you want it to turn out.”

I suppose that is true. Seems like all of the fairy tales are getting kind of thin. Laurabeth’s Prince Charming dying in battle leaving her childless and alone. Cassie and Mitch going their separate ways. Villains not renouncing their evil ways and reforming and learning to live happily ever after like the rest of us. Lots of other things like that seem to be happening recently. Doggone depressing if you think about it.

April 30th – Heard that there was another large raid by the pirates or whoever is causing these problems. Another migrant family was completely wiped out except for a little boy. Bradley’s aunt and uncle have taken him in temporarily.

Rand is on me about disappearing into the woods where he can’t find me. I told him I left a note on the kitchen counter and that it wasn’t my fault he sat his hat on top of it and didn’t see it and then got worried and cantankerous. We both wound up laughing in the end because it was silly but at the same time I know he is serious about me being more careful and not going off on my own. I suppose he as a point. Last thing I need to do is get out in the woods and turn an ankle or something. As big a round as I am now no telling what would happen.