Sunday, August 17, 2014

April: Raiders and Retribution (part 1)

April:  Raiders and Retribution
Days 244 – 273

Day 244 (Sunday) – April 1 – Rest Day

April showers bring May flowers?  Well I hope so because sure as shooting this blasted all day rain has gotten in the way of my plans today.  I want it to be good for something.  I do already have some flowers blooming; lots of my lilies are blooming like the gloriosa, canna, Aztec, amaryllis, and spider lily.  Best of all my daylilies are starting to bloom.  I’ll let a few of them go because I think they’re pretty and then I’m going to see about getting some of them squared away for adding to our food supply.  I also want the patch to spread. 

I shouldn’t say that I guess.  We definitely needed the rain.  The garden was sucking it up like fine wine and it was nice to refill our storage tanks.  Matter of fact it rained enough to refill one of the in-ground pools here in Sanctuary.   Scott spent the day tinkering with some ideas he’s had for our own home and gave Bob some room to work. 

Bob is a little upset.  OK, Bob is a lot upset.  He’s not the only one.  I was caught this morning doctoring the coffee.  I’ll be honest, I’m not sorry I did it I’m just sorry I got caught before I could confess.  None of our house except David drink coffee and while he likes it, he’s not enamored of it and can go without if he has too.  We’ve got others here in Sanctuary however that seem to be coffee fiends who seem to need it like vampires need blood.  They were upset to find out how low we were but even more upset to find out I’d made the decision to “water down” their caffeine fix without consulting them on it.  I’ve been doing it nearly a month now and no one noticed or said anything about it so I still don’t get their pouting … but I do understand they would have preferred to be consulted about it. 

I’ve been thinking of a plan of how to get some real coffee but nothing I’ve come up with is an immediate fix or necessarily even feasible.  Coffee is an import primarily from Central and South America.  I have a feeling that real coffee is going to be even more costly than ammo and honey on the open trading market. 

I’m giving something a try but it will be years before it produces anything.  In one of my notes that I printed out many moons ago was how to grow a coffee tree.  It wasn’t really a high priority for me so I had forgotten about it until today.  You start by taking green coffee beans (which we still have some of from where we scavenged from down in Ybor City) and then sprouting them.  That takes ten days to two weeks to happen and then you take the sprouts and plant them in small pots where they get some sun but don’t get sun burnt.  Every year you replant them in a pot that is two inches bigger than the one they started in until the pot is an 8 to 10 inch size.  Every year after that you top dress the top two inches of soil in the pot.   

What happens after that point I have no idea.  The directions don’t say.  Looking in my other books it looks like I’ll have to grow the pots in a greenhouse specific to their needs.  Can’t get too hot in there (not much above 80 degrees) and never gets too cold (not much below 60 degrees).  Sounds like a lot of work for a little return.  I hope it’s going to be worth it.  I still say that if my soda crazy self can give up my vice the others can deal with giving up theirs.  At least I was trying to prevent them from having to go cold turkey.  But there you go.  Everyone has their sacred cows and I guess coffee can be one of them. 

Two good things did happen today; Rhonda had her baby and we heard from Angus and Jim. 

Rhonda’s baby was born about 3:30 AM.  It’s a little boy but they are fighting over the name of all things.  Rhonda wants to name the baby Henry Jr. and McElroy wants the baby’s name to be Ronald after Rhonda.  I swear, you’d think that they’d already had this taken care of by now.  The baby was a little smaller than expected and Ski and Terra weren’t happy that he had a little trouble breathing at first but he wasn’t blue or anything.  He weighed in at 6 lbs. 3 oz. and was 19 inches long but otherwise he appears healthy now that Iggy has had a chance to clean him up and give him a little oxygen (thank you Glenn for your wondrous contraptions).  The labor was probably a little longer than a hospital setting would have let go on, close to twenty hours, but I guess that is what you get when you have a natural birth.  I heard Rhonda nearly clocked McElroy the last time he got a little green around the gills and told him if she had to go through this, he was going to too whether he liked it or not.  Methinks that Henry McElroy is going to be very, very diligent when it comes to birth control for a while. 

It was a nice bit of news to wake up to and I made sure that Rose took over a hardy helping of porridge for Rhonda along with a tall glass of cold milk fresh from the cooler.  She’s gonna need it if she plans on breastfeeding to provide the baby with all its nutritional needs. 

The rain had already started by the time I got breakfast ready for everyone.  I will admit my feelings were a little hurt by the cold shoulder I got but I’m a grown up and so are they.  They’ll either get over or they won’t.  From here on out they can make their own coffee and when it is all gone, it will be all gone and I won’t have to worry about it anymore.  Like I said, I’m sorry for getting caught not for doing it.  I’ll just have to live with the consequences of my choices.  You can’t always be sensitive when it comes to rationing food and drink, especially the stuff that isn’t getting replaced for whatever reason.  Somehow I wound up responsible for the food and gardens.  I’m gonna make mistakes, but I’m still going to do the best job I can and that won’t always include asking permission.  Oh well, you live you learn. 

After breakfast, rather than stand around dealing with the glowers or listening to their crazy schemes about how and where to get more coffee, I tried to get some work done in the gardens.  It was hopeless.  Even with a rain slicker on I got soaked to the skin and I just could get anything done by myself.  Johnnie and Bekah came out to help but I sent them back home to get their school stuff prepared for tomorrow after I saw they were both getting chilled. 

I finally just gave it up for the day after Scott came to find me and he told me he and Bob were calling it quits for the day as well.  We need to get another aluminum carport built for the machine shop but even if we’d had it today I’m not sure how much good it would have done.  The wind was having fun blowing the rain sideways as often as it came straight down.  I couldn’t even really work in the kitchen cause of the way the rain was blowing.  We’ve tried it in the past and the rain just makes it too hard to get the pressure canners up and evenly processing.   

I missed cleaning day so I spent some time doing that while David and James helped Scott out on the lanai.  They were hooking some solar power up to the pool pump.  Scott has decided to replace our DE pool filter with one of the old sand filter types.  We still have quite a bit of chlorine, shock, and muriatic acid and have been doing the best we can to keep the pool reasonably clean.  Not that we don’t have an algae problem cause we do, but at least it is mustard and green algae and not the dreaded black algae that will kill a pool in no time.  Most of the pools outside of Sanctuary are just plain gross and have all sorts of critters living in them.  And now that gator mating season has arrived I’m a little worried we may have some gator territorial issues as a result.   

If the sand filter works it should go a long way toward making my life easier.  The endless scrubbing and chemical checking of our pool is a real drag on my time that I already don’t have enough of.  Scott says he’ll wire the automatic time her run on the new filter and we’ll even be able to utilize the automatic chlorinator.  We try and keep the screens in good shape but James was out patching a few holes, when the wind wasn’t crazy, that were left over from the embers that fell from the last big fire. 

Everyone had lunch at their own domicile this afternoon though I know Betty and Reba made extra to share with Jack and Patricia.  Melody cooked her and Cease’s lunch at Rhonda’s place and fed them too.  I made a vegetable quiche only I didn’t call it a quiche.  Scott gets weird sometimes and one of those things he gets weird about is “quiche.”  Instead I just called it a vegetable brunch pie.    For dessert I made some dried fruit fried pies.  

I must have been a three or four the first time I saw my Great Aunt Flossie make fried pies in a cast iron skillet on the stove top.  They are so easy but some people get scared off making them because they don’t have enough confidence in making the crust.  It’s basically just a rolled out biscuit dough or pastry dough if you want to get fancy; I’m not fancy.  After you have your circle the size and thickness you want it you fill half the circle with whatever filling you want.  Today I used a jar of mock mincemeat because I’m missing apples so bad.  Dampen the dough edge with a little water and then you fold the dough over so you have a half moon shape.  Use a fork to seal the edge and then you fry your “pie” in butter or whatever you have on hand.  You can bake them too but I happen to like them fried. 

And so did everyone else apparently.  The pies went just about as quickly as I could get them out of the skillet.  Clean up was easy and I left it to the girls while I went to check on the stuff I had drying in the big drying oven.  The rain had slowed down the drying process some but that is OK given how much was in there to begin with.  I hate taking stuff out of the dehydrator when it is raining.  It’s still raining just nowhere near as hard, so I hope that by the morning I can take things out without them getting all soaked all over again. 

Since I couldn’t do any canning I spent the remainder of the afternoon brining stuff.  First the kids and I had fun making Jar Kraut.  OK, it’s not traditional but sauerkraut but I needed the crocks I had cleaned for the pickles we made later.   

First you have to harvest your cabbage.  I had nearly a dozen heads of cabbage that were beginning to get wilt-y around the edges sitting in the cooler because I had been taking too long to get something done with them.  I removed the outside and dirty leaves then quartered the heads and shredded them using a big butcher knife.  If we had had power I might have used a meat slicer but with the son behind the clouds for who knows how long I did it sans any special kitchen gadget.  The ratio of cabbage to salt is five pounds shredded cabbage to two ounces of salt.  You have to mix it up by hand because even a large wooden spoon just doesn’t do it evenly enough. 

After you have your mixing done properly, pack the shredded cabbage solidly into jars.  I used quart jars this time even though I used to just do pints since I was making it for bigger crowds.  And you really, really need to pack the shredded cabbage into the jar tightly.  You add cold water to this mixture but leave one inch of head space for the whole mess and then put the jar caps on loosely. 

I set the jars on the unused kitchen counter section and it will stay there until it is finished fermenting, which is about a week.  After that I’ll have to use a wooden spoon to get any air bubbles out and then do what I have to do to process the jars in a boiling water bath for 25 minutes. 

Next came the crock pickles.  First variety of crock pickles were the dills.  You need 8 cups water, ½ cup pickling salt (coarse), 1 gallon pickling cucumbers 2-3" in length, 6 garlic cloves, 6 fresh dill heads or sprigs, 2 tablespoons pickling spice, 2 small hot peppers (fresh or dried), and 1 cup white pickling vinegar.  First you have to scrub and drain the cucumbers removing blossom end (the end contain enzymes which can cause rot). Next place the water, vinegar and salt into the crock, stirring to dissolve salt.  Add remaining ingredients. Last place a weighted plate in the solution to keep cucumbers immersed and cover the crock with a tight fitting plastic bag or plastic wrap.  I had Scott, David, and James move the crocks to the Cooler so that they could stay about 68 degrees F.  I’ll have to check them daily to remove any floating scum but they should be ready after seven days.  After that I’ll strain the pickles out of the brine and can them using the boiling water bath method. 

After I got the dill pickles that had the garlic in them going I did dill pickles without garlic, sour pickles, Lithuanian crock pickles, 14 Day Pickles, and Sweet Lime Pickles.  I’ve got other pickle recipes but I ran out of crocks and many of the rest of the recipes are where you take the cucumbers and then add the cooked brine to them in the jar right before processing. 

I smelled like pickles by the end of the day and my hands were like prunes.  It’ll be worth it in the long run.  I had the girls to fix black beans and yellow rice from our home supplies for dinner.  It had been awhile since we had eaten it and it got us talking about things we have be subconsciously be trying to keep from remembering because we know it is gone forever.  The Columbia Restaurant, Brocatto’s Sandwich Shop, Pipo’s Family Restaurant … all those memories; but they were easy to talk about compared to the people we had been avoiding talking about.  The Rodriguez family and their daughter that was Bekah’s best friend.  All the kids that were friends with Rose and James that had come over one Saturday for a pool party and I served them up food from the Segundo Bakery, Cuban Sandwiches, Mock Sangria, and bowls of Garbanzo bean soup.  Christmas Eve when my brother and his family and my parents were come over for a traditional Spanish meal of pork marinated in naranja agria, yellow rice, black beans, Cuban bread, flan, ensalada de media noche, picodillo … it ached but not necessarily in a bad way.  And maybe it is time that we start letting those memories come back a bit at a time.

David shared some of his own memories, many of them too poignant and private for me to write here without coming to tears again.  Poor boy.  Not everyone has led the shelter lives that Scott and I have always tried to give our kids; but still he seemed to find some happiness, enough to make him to know the difference between how he lived and how he wanted to live. 

With the rain not letting anything of real value get accomplished I thought it was a good night for everyone to try and get a little extra sleep.  For a change none of us had a night shift though David would have First Shift as usual so would need to be up no later than four am.  But none of the kids wanted to go to bed.  It was definitely a night that called for a toddy.  For the kids I made a warm butterscotch milk drink.  I drank the same thing but Scott added a splash of rum to his.  I was trying to figure out what to do with the unexpected leftovers when Cease and Melody dropped by and I was able to give it to them rather than figure out how to split the small amount between some many littles. 

Cease is the one that brought word that Angus and Jim had finally radioed in.  And I quote: 

Not staying only on the roads but zig-zaging across the countryside has paid off, sorta. Came across an industrial park that had been secured as a living compound. Chain Link fence surrounded the complex and cars and trucks had been moved against the inside of the fence to keep it from being pushed in and breached. It looked as if maybe it was 10 strong at the time of the fire. They didn't flee the fire as the gate was still locked from within. Everything is at ground level now. The remains are scatted about the compound. Nothing survived the fire. Got some bugs out here that are so big you can hear them coming. Jim is trying out a new perfume for the ladies, don't think it will catch on though. It's a lot quieter out here than it used to be, less birds. Tell sissy we haven't seen a single squirrel in days. But if we do we’ll be sure to catch it and bring it back for her collection. 

I’m glad to know they are safe but it sounds … lonely I guess.  Not even birds to keep them company.  I suppose the quiet will let them hear anything that might be trying to sneak up on them.  I wonder if they’ll find a lot of compounds like that out there.  What could have stopped them from evacuating before the fire consumed them?  The Hive?  Did the smoke incapacitate them before they had a chance to escape?  Lordy, that’s sad.  Worse, it could have been us. 

I still remember that feeling of being cut off from everyone and everything up in that attic.  I must have been three quarters crazy when I tied myself to that beam.  The boys seem to have recovered well enough though they still have the occasional nightmare here and there when under a lot of stress. 

Melody also told me that Rhonda and the baby are doing well all things considered.  Rhonda is understandably tired and sore but otherwise doing OK.  Terra is going home tomorrow as soon as she sees that Rhonda has all the new baby stuff down.  I know it took me a while with Rose to figure out the breastfeeding thing so that she didn’t make me so blasted tender.  Some days I really do miss … no … no I don’t.  I may miss the idea of it but the reality is something I know is gone so I need to stop moping about it.  Enough is enough.  That time is gone in my life and I’ve got enough to manage thank you very much. 

As soon as Cease and Melody left for their own home we began to get the kidlets all down for bed.  Talk about a major undertaking every night.  Cinda is bunking with us tonight so that all the Clinic folks can get a good night’s rest after delivering Rhonda’s baby.  Tristan is still too weak to manage both Cinda and Tyce.  Then Kitty, little Miss Jealousy herself, unsatisfied with anything unless the person holding Cinda puts the baby down and picks her up instead.  Sis is next, then Al, Kelly, Bubby, Johnnie, Bekah and Sarah.  Charlene, James, and Rose dare me to send them to bed every once in a while but generally it works out so that everyone is eager for bed these days so Scott and I can manage a little privacy more often than not. 

But tonight the boys were up to shenanigans.  Bubby has switched his target from Johnnie to Al and little Al is too much of a natural victim.  I guess he got some of that from the situation he was in with both of his parents being … different.  I don’t know what I’m going to do with Bubby, he’s always pushing his boundaries.  He wants attention and he’ll get it any way he can, good or bad.  If he is like this now I can’t imagine what he is going to be like as a teenager.  None of biological children were the type to pick on their siblings past a certain point.  Bubby has to be stopped because he can’t seem to stop himself.  I know he is only five, and a young five at that, but I think I’m going to have to turn him over to Scott because this just can’t continue.  It’s the sort of thing that makes me grind my teeth.  Lord he is hard headed though I suppose that is a bit like the pot calling the kettle black.   

I have my own failings and I worry that there are things I could do different or better for the children.  One of the things I’ve been worrying over is their schooling.  Well, we’ve all agreed that the change is coming tomorrow.  Right after morning chores are over with the kids are going to have to start doing some organized curricula.  And if I catch them dragging their feet to keep from being on time with it you watch what happens. 

And with that I’m off to re-braid my hair and get to bed.  Scott is already asleep after breaking up the last mess between the boys.  Now it’s time for me to sleep.  I’ll deal with the leftover stuff tomorrow.

Day 245 (Monday) – April 2 – Wash Day

If this baby would just let me go to sleep I’d be ever so grateful.  I wasn’t even going to write tonight I’m so tired but Kitty is so fussy that all she wants to do is be held.  She turned 8 months old yesterday and today she took her first toddling steps though I wouldn’t say that she is really walking, just kind of creeping around holding on to things.  As soon as she lets go gravity takes over and butt meets ground.  Unfortunately this does not make it easy to get any work done as she is no longer satisfied with just staying in the playpen covered by mosquito netting.  By the time I came up with the idea of letting her just play inside our old tent she had pulled the mosquito netting down so many times that she was covered in whelps.  She has been in a foul mood most of the day and she is too uncomfortable tonight to go to sleep easily. 

Everyone else is also but bit to one extreme or the other.  I’ve got a ton of natural mosquito repellents that I’ve tried over the years.  Some work better than others.  One of the best is boiling up a bunch of lemon verbena, straining the greenery out, putting the resulting liquid in a spray bottle and then using it just like you would commercial bug spray.  It’s not so much that I’m scared of DEET or anything – when you need it you need it – but I prefer not to use something that strong unless I absolutely have to, especially on the younger kids.   I’ve got a eucalyptus tree in the neighborhood I can make essential oil from and use as well though I haven’t gone to the trouble yet.  And then there is the garlic recipe but that one is kinda smelly.  There is cedarwood oil, and I have some of that from the pet store we scavenged, but that’s another pricey ingredient I’d rather save until the other stuff doesn’t work. 

Of course I’ve had everyone making sure they leave no standing water except in the canals and ponds where it can’t be helped.  We’ve got screens and lids on all our catchment containers and water barrels. After every rain we make sure all surfaces get wiped off and dumped out as much as possible.  And you are going to laugh your rear off, future reader, when you hear about how we are spraying a diluted product called “skin so soft” on all the cattle.  It’s an Avon brand product and I know I’ll eventually run out but while I can avoid some discomfort I plan to do all I can.   

The other things I’ve done and am doing is planting marigolds all over the place I can fit them.  I love marigolds, they are good for so many things.  They are pretty for one.  The Calendula marigold is a regular ingredient in a lot of herbal recipes.  And best of all it is a bodacious companion plant.  It will go with most anything but especially with tomatoes; no whitefly problems for my tomatoes thank you very much.  Planted thickly enough they also discourage nematodes which is why I have a dense plot in an area that I want for a late summer plot in a couple of months.  The only thing about marigolds that you have to watch out for is that you can’t plant them next to beans and cabbage; they’ll act as an herbicide on the members of those plant families and you’ll wind up with squat for all your efforts. 

I’m growing and dividing all the mosquito plants I can as well.  It’s really the citronella geranium but I also just called it the mosquito plant.  It’s a little on the stinky side but not bad if citronella doesn’t bother you.  I keep some in large pots by all the entrances to the house.  I’ve given starter bits to just about everyone and I have a tray of small plants started for Aldea but unless you do something to make the plant release the oils they don’t do a whole lotta good.  Some other herbals I’m planting here and there to deal with mosquitoes are pennyroyal, lavender, rosemary, basil, thyme, and peppermint.  If I could find a camphor tree I’d try and get a grove of them started here in Sanctuary but that is a really long term project with no immediate results. 

Argh!  Kitty, please go to sleep, Momma’s tired!!! 

Anyway, got up first thing this morning to find that all of the rain from yesterday really had the bugs zipping this way and that.  I must have gotten bit three times between the house and the kitchen area.  Betty, Reba, and Rilla were already there ahead of me.  I planned on grabbing the porridge for my crowd and then heading out to the garden, I had a lot to do.  Today was also Wash Day and I’d left my girls setting up for that.  Rose, Melody and Charlene were gonna be in charge today at the house.  Melody still brings her, Cease’s, and the kids clothes over to do it with us.  It does make for a pleasant visit so I guess we’ll just plan on it being this way until Scott can figure out how to power enough washing machines for everyone to use. 

I took the pot of porridge back to our house, got everyone served, ate a small bowl myself and then put on my grungy garden togs and overalls.  I look ridiculous but it keeps the bugs off.  James carried Kitty’s stuff over to the big garden for me and set it up.  Kitty is a menace on wash day and it’s just safer for everyone if she is otherwise occupied.  She’s going through a stage when she has to test everything and fire fascinates her, I guess it looks like flowers or something.   

I had intended to harvest first and plant in the afternoon but everything was so damp and nasty from yesterday’s rain that I decided to plant first instead.  I’ve been pretty good about keeping everything weeded and James, bless him, has helped with the “mowing” by taking a sling blade and keeping the worst of the overgrowth from encroaching on the garden sides.  I had also laid down black and clear plastic sheeting to kill off the bad stuff and mark off where the new plots were going to be.  Day before yesterday I had the littles pull out all of the grass and roots and this morning I used the cart to pull the small disc attachment through the areas.   

You’d think with over 150 acres to work with there would be plenty of places to for the garden but not really.  We’ve got buildings and tarmac over a bunch of that and the canals and ponds also take up their share of space as does the pasture area for the animals.  I can’t plant right up next to the Wall for obvious reasons and I have to avoid the tree lots as well.  I’ve got a few large gardens but for the most part I have to lay out things in bits and pieces where ever I can get them in.  It takes a lot of garden to feed everyone.   

Today I planted more beans (bush, pole, and lima) though it is already getting to the point I’m sick of having to pick a bushel or two at a time every stinking day.  I know that sounds like more than enough but you’d be amazed … or maybe you wouldn’t since I don’t know what the future holds any more if I ever did … how many beans it takes to cook enough for the troops. 

After I got the beans in the ground I planted two big patches of summer goodies; black eyed peas and okra.  I know I don’t get much traction with them at meal times right now but come the middle of summer everyone will be happy for their freshness when nothing else survives the brutal heat and sun.  Then came a cantaloupe/melon patch and a pumpkin patch.  And after that I planted summer squash, more peppers, and collard greens.   

That left my two newest acquisitions and I hope they work out.  At the market I picked up sweet potatoes and raw peanuts.  We are coming to the tail end of all the peanut butter except for the powdered stuff I bought pre-NRS and I won’t use that except in an emergency.  I managed to get a good sized plot of peanuts planted.  Cease promises me that they are easy to grow; his grandparents always had a whole field of peanuts that they’d turn around and sell as boiled peanuts at the vegetable stand.  I hope to high heavens he is right.  I traded a pint of honey and a tray of herb seedling for enough peanuts to plant nearly a quarter acre plot.  I am not going to be happy if we don’t get some results off of it.   

The sweet potatoes weren’t nearly as dear in price but if they make we’ll be sitting pretty.  When I tried to find out where the man had picked up the peanuts and sweet potatoes he got a little belligerent so I let it go fast, but it is still a curiosity I keep thinking on.  I’m wondering if he is doing a little smuggling from the Free Zone or a little black marketeering from outside the state.  The radio says that the Feds are trying to crack down on the illegal border trade but that’s as likely to work as stopping the all the illegal immigrants we used to have crossing into the US.  Although it seems they are smartening up and business folks caught with “contraband” are fined, lose their fuel allotment, and have their business confiscated.  When the risk is no longer worth the reward, people will find some other way to make a living or they will follow the rules. 

My job was made all the harder because I had to keep stopping to deal with Kitty.  By lunch time I was ready to pull my hair out.  I was hot, tired, dirty, and just about as cranky as Kitty was and in no mood for the pouty faces I got when I finally made it to the Dining Hall.   

It seems I forgot to make the coffee this morning.  I was in a nasty mood and not feeling too hot and Dix caught me at the wrong moment right has Kitty decided to take a bite out of the finger I was using to poke a piece of broccoli into her mouth.  Those baby teeth are sharp! 

James, who’d had the good sense to leave me in peace after he shoved a glass of iced tea my way, shoved a piece of broccoli in my mouth before I could pop off and regret it.  By the time I finished chewing the small tree and swallow it before it choked me I had myself under better control.  I explained that I was busy and had forgotten and then tendered my apologies.  I think someone else would have said something but the steam beginning to billow out of my ears must have made them rethink it. 

I really didn’t mean to forget the coffee.  Really.  I know that sounds like an excuse but I just plain didn’t have time to think about it this morning.  Or didn’t make the time to think about it this morning.  I don’t know.  I just didn’t do it and that’s all there is to it.  Maybe someone else will lend me a hand and then they can share the heat when it’s too strong, not strong enough, cut with substitute, or not cut and running low.  My magical satchel is running low on some items; coffee and chocolate are a couple of them.  My own patience is occasionally another one. 

After lunch and I set up one of our smaller tents for Kitty to toddle around in until she was ready to go down for a nap.  That was a wasted thirty minutes as I had to repair a shock pole that had splintered.  The tent leaned somewhat but at least it kept Kitty contained and happy. 

I guess the girls had had their fill of the older littles because they sent them out to me not long after that.  I’m sure that they didn’t mean to make things harder on me but I really hadn’t planned on having to deal with finding work for five five-and-under littles either.   

But tote that barge and lift that bale works as well now as it did in the old days.    Here’s a list of what the kids and I brought in today:  long season beets, All-Season Cabbages, Boothby’s blonde cucumbers (which is kind of weird looking), Japanese climbing cucumbers, Tendergreen burpless cucumbers, West Indian gherkin cucumbers, White Wonder cucumbers (which are even more odd than the blonde ones), brown bell peppers (which I can’t convince the kids aren’t rotten), mini red ball bell peppers, bloody butcher tomatoes, first pick tomatoes, wild cherry tomatoes (grape size), sweetie cherry tomatoes, tiny tim tomatoes, bambino carrots,  a bunch of looseleaf lettuce, and nearly half a bushel of English peas. 

I stopped to check on Kitty who had crashed for a nap when Reba came by and said she’d finished with the butter and cheese quicker and that if I didn’t mind she wanted to make some pickles.  I looked at her like she was a saint sent to deliver me and she got a good laugh out of it.  A couple of her kids grabbed the bushel baskets that we’d filled up and hauled them to the kitchen for their mom. 

Betty was in charge of dinner which was a relief for me.  She made borscht soup the way she learned when she and Kevin had spent a couple of months in Russia on sabbatical and it was so good.  She also made a huge salad and then the main dish was a huge pile of sautéed and grilled veggies with some gator meatballs mixed in for those that wanted meat. 

I guess McElroy was feeling frisky and manly and he and David had gone to the fish ponds to bring back more fish stock for our canals.  Well, I tried to tell them to watch for gators as the bulls were going to be feeling kind of frisky themselves.  April is gator mating season and I’d already heard them singing for their females that last few days (and nights).  They said every fish pond had at least one gator in it.  The one they brought home was a five foot male that had been hiding in the bushes trying to avoid the big boys.   

The fishy smelling thing was divided up just about as soon as it crossed Sanctuary’s threshold.  The hide went one direction, the teeth and claws went other.  Betty grabbed the tail after it has been skinned to make the meatballs, Samuel wanted the skull, and I don’t think I want to know what the dogs did with whatever was left over.  Ew. 

Gator doesn’t quite taste like chicken like everyone says.  The tail is really lean meat.  There is really only a single marble of fat that runs down the tail and you take that out before you cook it.  The taste is kind of like chicken I guess, depending on how you cook it, but it’s also kind of like catfish.  Like everything else it takes on the flavor of what it is cooked with so it’s good for mixed dishes but I think the simplest way to fix it is just to fry it up.  Fried gator tail always makes me think of the bit FSU/UF rivalry.  Sad to think that those two schools may never reopen but if FSU was a bad as UF as far as NRS infestation goes, it might be for the best in the long run. 

I ate dinner downwind of everyone.  We’ve gotten over being very particular about deodorant and such but even I was getting grossed out by how smelly I was.  I was also dealing with a very cranky Kitty by that point. 

After dinner I ran to see if the girls had dumped the last rinse water yet and was rewarded by it not only being there but still being warm.  I stuck Kitty in a high chair which she was most unhappy about and then dumped bucket after bucket into the tub we keep on the lanai.  I pulled the screen over to give myself some privacy, undressed both Kitty and I and then climbed in the tub.  I scrubbed the two of us the best I could and then wanted nothing more than to relax for a few minutes but my youngest chick wasn’t going to let me. 

Just then Scott startled me with a “Boo!” as he snuck around the screen.  I was too tired to do much more than threaten to throw my luffa brush at him and he just laughed the wretch.  Happily however he grabbed the baby and told me to take my time, the kids were already washed up and were getting ready for bed.   

I must have fallen asleep because it was full dark when Kitty’s crying woke me up.  I was shriveled as a prune.  I climbed out, pulled the plug on the tub and let the water drain out thought the pipe that Scott had cut and installed through the lanai wall for this purpose, and went inside to see what was going on. 

Scott was looking trashed, I guess he’d gotten Kitty to settle down for a while but he needed to go on guard duty.  He looked sorry that I had to get up but it’s not like I could have slept in the tub all night.  I gave him a quick kiss as he rushed out, made sure the rest of the kids got to bed, and spent the next three hours trying to pacify a cranky baby. 

Scott came in exhausted and barely had the energy to register that Kitty was still awake.  I pushed him off to bed anyway even though he said he’d take her for a few minutes.  I wasn’t having any of that, especially after I found out they’d spotted a small bunch of zombies going through the area.  Zombies aren’t that unusual but they were being hunted by people wearing ZKK insignia. 

If they had been sanitizing the zombies like most rational people would we wouldn’t have had a problem.  Instead it appeared like they were capturing them and putting them in cages that had been welded onto trailers being pulled by large trucks.   

What on earth those idiots are doing I can’t imagine.  OK, I can imagine but it doesn’t do any good.  We need to find out why they are coming all the way over here when they’ve supposedly got a huge territory further south on Dale Mabry Hwy.  We are going to have to step up our foot patrols to make sure they aren’t trying anything that could cause us problems.  I’m a live and let live person and I don’t like to be in other people’s business but if they are doing anything to endanger my family and friends I’ll lead the charge against their compound myself. 

I think a couple of more minutes of rocking and Kitty will be good and out for the rest of the night, I hope.  I’m gonna close here and try and get her down so I can finally get some sleep.  Its been a confoundedly long day.

Day 246 (Tuesday) – April 3

Woke up with ZKK on the brain.  I just can’t seem to stop wondering what on earth they could possibly want with those zombies.  We’ve had suggestions from target practice to pets and we are no closer to finding out than we were last night. 

Dix took McElroy to go have a face-to-face confab with Aldea and OSAG.  Our guards are the only ones to have witnessed what they were doing but the other two groups now have a heads up and will be watching. 

Poor Melody had a meltdown today.  Newly married she’s still honeymooning but she’s starting to learn the plain truth … or the truth as women see it.  It’s been this way since the beginning of time.  Men are hard workers but they learn to never volunteer and how to relax much earlier in life than females do.  Women’s work is never done and yet there seem almost a genetic imperative to take on more and more until we are completely snowed under. 

OK, that’s a really bad over simplification of the situation.  At any point you can generally find a man sitting under a tree, fishing, or something of that nature.  They’ll stop to have an impromptu football or Frisbee game.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen any of us women doing that unless we have a man in tow.  There’s the cooking, the cleaning, the kids, now the academic teaching.  There’s the gardening, the washing, the mending.  The menu planning, the keeping up with the inventories, and the food preservation.  I’ve learned to do what I can and then just accept that the rest gets done some other time.  I wasn’t always like this.  Lord knows I’ve gone both ways; working until I made myself sick and then blaming Scott and just literally giving up and going on strike because I didn’t feel appreciated. 

Scott and I have learned to watch each other for signals when the other is needing a break but doesn’t have the sense to ask for it.  And we try to never tell each other “no” when the other is asked for help.  If we have to say “no” we try and offer an alternative that is at least as good or better than the result of the request would have been.  Not always successfully, but after 20+ years of marriage we’ve gotten a lot better at it.  When we have a disagreement it’s very rare for it to be over who is pulling their weight. 

 Melody and Cease though are new at this.  Melody was is sad shape when we rescued her and the kids.  Belle and Trent are good kids, but they are still kids; and they are nowhere near old enough to look after themselves in any way.  Trent isn’t much older than Sis is.  She’s also having to take care of a house and husband for the first time under very trying circumstances.    And she works full time in the Clinic and is still learning as much as she can about practical healthcare at the same time.  Ski is no slave driver but he’s no slouch either and the girls have to give at least 100% to what he is trying to teach them. 

Cease is a good young man but let’s be practical here.  He’s young.  He’s a male.  He was the apple of his grandparents’ eyes, so count him a little on the spoiled side.  Sure the military knocked some of that out of him but old habits die hard and his grandmother probably did all the “women’s work” around the house and left him to his grandfather for other stuff.  He likely doesn’t mean to do this … but it’s the testosterone, you know? 

A first fight is inevitable.  This time however I guess Melody was just plum tuckered.  Melody hadn’t had time to fold and put away all of the clothes that she had washed yesterday.  She stayed up late and got everything but the socks and undies done and those she put in a basket to do the next day … today I mean.  She had first rotation at the Clinic so she got up, got the kids up and took them to breakfast and then dropped them at our house for Charlene to watch for a few hours and so they could do “school” mid-morning.  Cease was walking in the door from two shifts of guard duty as she was walking out with the kids. 

I was out in the garden when I heard a commotion.  I thought one of the kids was in trouble.  I was going to ignore it for long as I could thinking that if it was one of mine getting in trouble I’d be told soon enough and then the spanking would commence.  Slowly things quieted back down and I let it go since I hadn’t been called. 

About fifteen minutes Scott comes out to where I was going and I thought, “Uh oh, who did what now?” 

And then the big goof doubled over.  Scared … me … to … death.  I go running up and grab him and we both fall to the ground ‘cause he is laughing so hard.  That’s when I found out that all the hollering had been Melody.   

Between fits of laughter Scott tells me how Cease had apparently dumped his stinky, sweaty clothes and boots right on top of the clean unmentionables leaving neither of them nothing to wear.  It would have been OK but Cease … in a fit of absentminded maleness … just casually said, “Oh, you can just wash them.  I’ll wait.” 

I guess it must have been the straw that broke the camel’s back.  And then Dix … he tried to “help.”  That would be like the blind leading the blind.  Dix also mentioned how it was just “washing a few things” and couldn’t be all that bad.  WHAP!  Melody slung a sweat-soaked dirty sock right in Dix’s face and told him if he thought washing was so easy he could just do it himself.  She then started enumerating exactly how much work washing actually was.   

That’s when all the women over there kind of gave the men an education on how much work they were doing.  Scott, David, and James had the sense to lay low and avoid becoming the target as they’d had their fair share of the sharp slings and arrows of womankind thrown their way before. 

More in self-defense than anything else, Dix decided to call a community meeting to address everyone’s (read all the women’s) complaints and concerns. 

During lunch there was a lot of airing out.  I’ve popped my cork a time or two over the issue but I held back except when asked directly for a contribution to the discussion.  Everyone knows what my temper is and I didn’t want to get known as a flaky complaining woman.  I felt we were all better off if the more even tempered of us made the case for some changes. 

The bottom line is that the men didn’t really know what most of the women’s chores entailed and a lot of the women didn’t really know the rationale for the way the men did their work.  The adult women do the cooking (all of it), most of the food preservation at all levels, most of the cleaning, all of the washing and mending, most of the gardening, most of the childcare, most of the small livestock care, all of the planning for the preceding activities, etc.  The men do most of the construction work (Scott took a break from dismantling the remaining buildings that needed to come down outside of Sanctuary to help Iggy set up his machine shop), most of the heavy-duty livestock care, most of the hunting (though there hasn’t been much of that lately), most of the water catchment, most of the road maintenance and security, all of the exterior patrols, and the planning for all their activities. 

There are areas of overlap of course.  Ski heads the clinic but Rose and Melody are his assistants and Terra and Nick throw in their two cents from Aldea.  Almost everyone takes a turn at some point during the week on guard duty.  Samuel and my Sarah spend most of their chore time helping in one way or the other with livestock care.  Bekah has taken a huge liking for Communications and devotes a couple of hours a day to working in the radio shack.  All of us used to participate in the Gathering Runs but being as there isn’t really all that much to gather any more that task has fallen by the wayside as a group effort. 

It’s a plain historical fact that when women died young in the bad old days it was usually from overwork or childbirth related issues.  When men died young it was often from war or accident.  If we weren’t careful we were going to return to those bad ol’ days.   

The truth is that all of the chores that we’ve set for ourselves are arduous and time consuming.  The kids pull their weight but we have a large number of really young children so they create at least as much work as they try and help with.   

To be honest, I think whatever was accomplished at the meeting was more emotional than physical.  The air was cleared.  All parties recognized the work of the others.  We’ve agreed to “cross-train” more.  That means that women may give more help in security and maintenance details and the men will participate in washing their own clothes and cooking.  Everyone will also help in the gardens; although many of the women have already, not since the initial clearing and plowing have the adult men helped. 

I’m not disappointed but I’m not going to get my hopes up too high either.  There is a reason why the jobs got divvied up the way they have.  People have specialties and it is easier and less time consuming (and fewer mistakes) when those people are primarily responsible for their specialties.   

Take gardening, I just can’t see some of the guys out there hoeing and weeding.  They are as likely to take out a seedling as they are to take out a weed.  And I know that if I were to be on outside patrol I’d probably be thinking of all the things that I could be doing in the garden or at home.  We’ll see, cross-training certainly isn’t a bad idea that’s for sure. 

After lunch and talk time was over with I headed back out to the garden.  On my way out there I saw Melody and Cease making up.  Too cute.  I did notice however that he had a big bucket of water and a wash basin.  Hopefully it was just a matter of rinsing most of their stuff out and the whole basket didn’t need to be re-washed.  I didn’t ask. 

I planted more marigolds today and I also added some anise and sunflowers to the herb garden.  Those things were all so easy to plant that the effort was negligible and I was able to leave it to the littles without any fear.  The preschoolers … the littles … had their school in the morning after breakfast.  Rilla, Rhonda (though only for a minute), and Claire helped them with their lessons.  Mid-morning it has been the young elementary aged kids, those in the first through fifth grade.  After lunch the elementary aged kids finished their chores and duties while the older kids did their lessons; that would be the tweens and teens. 

Rose hadn’t technically graduated but she had always been advanced academically and had already been dual-enrolled in community college.  Had she been able to complete her dual enrollment plan for this year she would have been able to enter university with 18 college credit hours under her belt.  Scott and I talked to her and she really was passed high school in every way, would be 18 in June anyway.  We agreed to let her continue on as an apprentice in the Clinic though that was nothing more than a formality. 

James on the other hand was a stickier problem.  He was sixteen, not a boy but certainly not a man though he carried many of the duties of one.  I’d already had the fights with him in the beginning about growing up so fast and I was the loser.  I had capitulated with prejudice on that topic and I’ve gradually learned to live with if not totally accept the way things have gone.  Scott and I both wanted James to further his education.  He had a good mind though it leaned more towards leadership and governance (including Constitutional Law) than it did academia.  Surprisingly it was James that came to us first.  The bargain he made was that he would study math, science, and political science with the other kids, but literature would be on his own terms and of his own choosing.  He said he would do this without fussing so long as he was allowed to continue studying with Dix and Scott on the running of Sanctuary and work as a Sanctuary Guard.   What were we supposed to say?   

And of course Scott was pleased as punch and very proud of him.  I am too, just … I remember the little boy he used to be and it’s hard, so hard, to let go.  Why it has been so much easier with Rose I don’t know.  With Rose it seemed like a natural progression of who she already was and the goals she already had.  It feels like James has been ripped from my arms.  I remember the boy that was picked on because he was a little chunky and so much shorter than the other boys.  I remember the boy that hated his teeth because they were so crooked.  Scott and I worked a lot of extra hours to save the money for those braces.  I remember the boy that was determined to show the older and bigger boys he was just as capable of playing tackle football as they were.  I remember the boy who was determine to earn his Eagle rank by the time he was 15.  And he did all that and more.  He’s no long the small, chunky boy so determined to prove himself.  Now he’s on his way to being taller than Scott and being more than a match for any of the boys that used to think they were better than he was.  He’d already been heading that way when NRS came on the scene; there was no longer any doubt that he had arrived at that stage now. 

I had wondered where Charlene, Maddie, Josephine, and Brandon would want to “do school.”  Charlene and Maddie were quite happy to spend a couple of hours a day at it.  Brandon, more and more introspective and distant with all of us, said no.  He was content to work in the library learning on his own or taking his turn on guard duty though he preferred going on patrol.  Josephine, who has moved back in with Patricia and Jack after trying to live with Brandon for a short time, didn’t know what she wanted; she didn’t show up the first day but she was there today.  She such a mess though that I’m not sure if she is really there when she is there or not. 

So with the littles with me and the other kids either doing chores or in school I harvested more of what had ripened since yesterday plus the new stuff that had started to ripen today.  Mostly it was just new varieties of tomatoes:  Arkansas Traveler, pink brandywine, red brandywine, Cherokee purple, Russian black (really black and not just sort of purple), and Tangerine (a small orange colored variety).  A couple of weird tomato varieties also produced though not in great quantity yet.  There was White Wonder which was very low acid tomato only good for eating raw.  There was Garden Peach Fuzzy Tomato which was shaped and colored similarly to a peach and really was fuzzy too; that one is kinda freaky and I’m not sure if we are supposed to eat the fuzzy skin or not.  There were these little green grape tomatoes that hardly looked like they were ripe enough to pick but they tasted really good and I’m thinking they’ll make pretty good tomato pickles.  Then one of my favorites was the lemon drop yellow cherry tomato which I’m going to make tomato preserves from if I can keep Clay Jr. from eating them all; he nearly cleared a whole tomato vine of ripe ones in one sitting.  My word that boy can eat. 

I’ve got beets coming in hand over fist.  While I watched to make sure that Sarah and Claire made the cornmeal biscuits right, I sliced about 20 pounds of beets on the mandolin slicer and sled them into the big drying oven.  And of course I had to go through and get all the lettuce that was ready before it bolted. 

After dinner I had the girls carry the two bushel baskets of beet tops and pieces and the lettuce cores over to the animal pens.  The animals have gotten so used to seeing someone coming with their dinner in a basket that you have to wait outside the fence or they’ll knock you down to get into whatever it is you are bringing them.  And if Ol’ Billy isn’t careful and doesn’t stop butting people in the backside we are going to wind up eating BBQ’d goat one of these nights for dinner.  He’s a menace.  Every time it happens to someone else I can’t help but recall my first meeting with the silly old thing. 

Got a radio contact from Angus and Jim a little earlier in the day than we normally do.  So far they are still traveling in the burn zone.  They said that stuff is already starting to grow up through debris.  I think the fire must have been moving pretty fast in some areas and all they got was a burn-over rather than a deep burn that would have sanitized the soil. 

Didn't do much looking around because of the burn out; nothing to see but re-growth. So we just road the best paths and roads and made really good time. Weather was cooler and very overcast, waiting for some rain. Checked out some homes that are still standing along an area the fire didn't get to because of small lakes and canals but none are suitable for a night’s stay because of infestations of one kind or another. Found a home’s garage that didn't have anything living in it for the night. Going to see if any buildings in the area are still safe to hold up in come morning, still want to go over the horses for a day or two. Jim wants to do more fishing, I want some meat. It's a race to see what we eat. Radio acting up. 

I don’t like the sound of the radio acting up.  I hope we don’t lose track of them.  And I know that their supplies would have run out sooner or later but I’m a little upset I hadn’t given them enough to tide them over longer.  

Also got a radio call for Dora that she’s heading up this way.  She must think she has something worth trading as it wasn’t that long ago that we saw her at market day.  I hope it is something interesting, I want to keep a good trading friendship with her but I don’t want to be forced into trading either. 

I’ve got more preserving to do tomorrow so I’m going to make an early night of it.  The kids are still working on their “homework” but it really is bed time.  I hate to run the lamps too long.  The solar lamps don’t use any fuel and it helps that the days are getting longer but I don’t want to get too dependent on absolutely having to have the lamps either.  What if they break?

Day 248 (Thursday) – April 5

I was too tired to write last night; not feeling much better tonight.  Wound up getting the shakes this afternoon and just about passed out in the community kitchen.  I did the thoughtless and got too hot and a little dehydrated.  You know that kind of woozy feeling you can get when you stand up too fast?  Well that’s how I felt.  I turned around and just sort of tripped over my own feet, knocked a big metal bowl to the floor (empty thank goodness), and then just managed to grab the table to have a controlled fall rather than a full frontal face splat. 

The girls ran for Scott and Ski while Betty and Reba got me off the floor.  They put a damp rag across my neck and gave me one to wipe my face with; my face being painfully glowing red from a combination of the heat and my embarrassment.  Basically Ski said it was what I said, heat and being a little dehydrated.  I did the rest of my work sitting down today and I skipped the after-dinner socializing and am sitting on the lanai drinking lemonade made from some cheap, pre-sweetened, powdered drink mix that’s just about to gag me.  Ask me if I have a choice though … Scott is being the overprotective male and actually measuring the amount I’m drinking and watching to make sure I drink all that Ski said I should. 

It all started yesterday.  We woke up to a very warm and humid day.  It will undoubtedly get worse in the coming months but it is already warm enough now to be well past simply uncomfortable.  What really made it worse is that the wind has gone on vacation.  Even as I sit here now, the only breeze is what is getting stirred up by all the mosquitoes buzzing this way and that. 

As much as I would have liked to stay in the shade I had to get going.  The kids helped me to pull out all of the produce in the Cooler and all of the ingredients from the Storehouse that we would need.  All that stuff was hauled to the community kitchen.  James, Samuel, and Tristan (who is up and around now and eager to be part of things) loaded up all of the wood boxes. 

The ovens were still warm from breakfast so it wasn’t a big deal to get them heated to temperature but we also heated the kitchen when we did so.  Thank goodness that Scott and McElroy installed the large ceiling fans in there just like they did in the Dining Hall.  They run on solar power; if the sun is up the fans are spinning.  Scott has it on his list to install on/off switches and alternative power sources for cloudy days, but we need to get the new security items built first, and the rest of the demolition done, and … well, the kitchen fans are a priority but not that high up the list as they’ll suffice for now either way. 

I had the girls start processing items to go in the big drying oven while I went out and took the previous stuff out.  I brought the dried trays in and then took the next trays out.  The girls continued to process the produce while I packaged up the newly dried items.  Betty picked bits and pieces out of what was sitting around and started a cauldron of thick Mexican stew to go with the tortillas that Josephine and Maddie were making on a wood fired rocket stove. 

Here is what we canned between yesterday and today:  BBQ sauce, basil jelly, beet jelly, beet pickles, beet relish, bell pepper relish, tomato ketchup, bread and butter pickles, cabbage and carrot relish, calico pickles, candied cucumber rings, canned green beans, salsa, antipasto mix (eggplant and sweet peppers), more tomato sauce, more tomato soup, more tomato juice, tomato paste, carrots, chili sauce, pickled garlic, chow chow, mustard beans, hot pepper jelly, copper pennies (pickled carrots), lime pickles, crystal cukes, cucumber relish, curry pickles, dilly beans, Dixie relish, eggplant marmalade (actually better than it sounds), four-pepper-relish, ginger pickles, green tomato catsup, green tomato pickles, habanera jelly, V-8 juice, jalapeno jelly, picante sauce, sweet pickle sticks, pickled hot peppers, watermelon rind pickles, and yellow tomato preserves. 

I look at that and think how on earth did we do it?  But with a bunch of women and girls, 8 large pressure canners (and a giant boiling water canner for the pickled stuff), and two stoves it really went faster than we had any reason to expect.  I want to talk to Scott about the possibility of having a third oven in the kitchen; but one of gas.  I’m just not sure how feasible that hydrogen fuel stuff would be to use in an oven.  It will light a torch in the machine shop but will it work for an oven or a stove top burner?  And what kind of BTUs would we get out of it and burning hours. 

On top of the canning we also started some sun-dried tomatoes I’ll eventually pack in olive oil and a couple of gallon jars of pickled eggs to replace the ones that we traded.   

I did have a short break after lunch when Dora showed up.  Yeah, she definitely had something cool to trade with.  I guess her boys had found some dairy cows for her and being the entrepreneur that she is, she has now added yogurt to her trade goods.  She never answered me directly about where she got her starter for yogurt.  She wanted to trade some yogurt for some cheese starter.  Reba is in charge of that so she came out and brokered a deal that everyone was happy with. 

I didn’t pull the last batch out of the last pressure canner until nearly midnight.  That was way later than I had intended on being up.  I also went through two solar lamp batteries and had to switch to gas lanterns to see to get everything finished up.   

Reba has to be up before the cows for milking so Betty and I convinced her to head home after dinner clean-up was finished.  Betty had breakfast duty so I eventually got her to agree to go home to be with her family about 9-ish or so. 

Slowly everyone headed off but it was no biggie, all I was doing at that point was processing already filled jars and that’s nothing but a hurry-and-wait kind of job.  Strangely it was Maddie who stayed up with me.  She’s fallen in love with baby Cinda and had the baby with her because Tyce could sleep – and Tris wouldn’t sleep – if he could hear Cinda fussing. 

Maddie is a completely different girl from who she used to be.  That’s not a bad thing but the events that brought the change about sure were.  I think the poor thing has been intensely lonely since her mother and twin were killed.  Brandon, for all that he has tried to be a decent sort of step-brother, is going through an emotional mess himself and can’t help her.  In hindsight I wish I had seen what was happening; I should have done more.  I picked up Charlene readily enough; however I certainly was thoughtless about poor Maddie.  The poor kid still combs her hair to hide the scar she now has when it is really a badge of honor proclaiming her a survivor.  I can’t change the past but we can certainly move forward from here. 

Cinda finally slept and Maddie took her back to the Clinic which remains the temporary living quarters of Tris and Tyce.  I learned today that Ski, up because Rilla’s little boy had another ear ache, let her sleep near Cinda’s bassinet because it was late and it was so obvious she didn’t want to go home.  The boys can’t continue sleeping at the Clinic so Scott is trying to make one of the smaller houses so that Tris can take care of his little brother and baby sister more independently.  It wasn’t long after Maddie took the baby away that I was able to head home as well and ran into Scott who was on his way home from guard duty. 

It didn’t feel like I had done much more that put my head on my pillow before Kitty woke me for her first change of the morning and her breakfast … “in that order,” exclaimed her majesty.  And when Angus gets back he is going to get a lecture.  It’s got to be him, the rogue.   

Uncle Angus thought it was cute to teach Kitty how to get the lids off her sippy cups.  I know she is a little young for a sippy cup but I had to wean her off the bottle early because she kept biting holes in the plastic nipples we gave her.  She’s already a mess, why on earth did he have to teach her that trick too?! 

Before breakfast was over I was right back at it.  The teens and tweens helped to harvest everything that had ripened since the preceding day and pull everything out of the Cooler we hadn’t managed to finish up yesterday. 

Today has been even hotter than yesterday and with those big stoves going and the fire pit going for lunch’s stew and dumplings it was like being smothered by a wet, hot towel.  The sweat was rolling off of me like I was walking in the rain.  I was completely soaked from the skin out through all my clothes. 

I didn’t have any appetite at lunch time though I poked a few bites in my mouth just to keep Scott from getting growly.  I was walking from the Dining Hall back to the kitchen when I realized I wasn’t feeling well but I was determined to carry on.  Dope.  I had just finished loading the last bit of Cabbage and Carrot Relish into the jars for processing when I went down. 

Ski said at dinner he wants everyone to start carrying a water bottle or canteen with them at all times whether they are inside or outside the Wall.  I know that’s what I intend on doing.  As used to Florida weather as I am, I still got caught flat-footed because I wasn’t paying attention.  Before I always had the artificial environment of an air conditioned house to escape to.  It will be a long time before that comes back around again on any large scale.  All the cooling capacity we have right now has to be devoted to food preservation. 

Another thing that preyed on my mind yesterday was that we didn’t hear from Angus and Jim.  It was just a radio foul up though and their report tonight was brief but let us know they were OK.  All the modern landmarks have disappeared … billboards, street signs, etc. … so they don’t know exactly where they are at but they know how to get home and that’s about all I care about. 

We traveled without any problems west and have started to see more shamblers than before. They seem to be heading in a northerly direction. We have a destination come morning.  As soon as it was dark the dog barked from behind a row of trees that are behind the building we’re camped at.  Jim checked it out and called me over to look at an odd sight. About a mile south of us there's a house with lights on. Bright light bulb lights; it's like a beacon out here.  According to the map, if we’ve got it right, it looks like a development on the far side of a warehouse complex.  We’ll see in the morning. 

The pool pump looks like it is working really nice.  The pool is still way too cold for me; but give it another couple of weeks and even with the pool cage it will be warm enough for swimming.  When that happens Scott and I are thinking about having everyone over to our place for old time sake and having a BBQ and pool party.  It wouldn’t be easy to pull off and everyone would have to have fun in shifts, but Scott isn’t against the idea. 

Still no news on the ZKK front though when Dora came by I asked her if she’d had any more trouble from them.  She said they come by all the time trying to hustle her kids (biological and adopted) to join up.  Dora is another one like us … she’s adopted any child she has run across without a caregiver.  Last I heard she’s got what amounts to a football team at her house. 

The last thing we need to fill the vacuum of structure we have is a bunch of little gangsta thugs.  Some of them dress so goofy; they remind me of that old Australian teen soap opera where all the adults in the world died of some plague or other.  Weird make up, strange hair and/or hair colors, unusual body art and piercings.  You know, I’m not really against people expressing themselves I just think if they want to do it let them do it for the right reason … creative expression and not just to intimidate and/or shock for the sake of it.  And the girls I saw that hung out with those tools.  Somebody really needs to explain to them that one of these days that cute little tattoo up high on their breast is going to wind up bouncing around down by their bellybutton if they don’t start wearing a bra with good support.  Gravity is a killer. 

When I mentioned that fact of life to Dora I thought she was going to fall over laughing.  Why do I have a feeling that comment is going to come back and haunt me one of these days? 

Scott is giving me “the eye” and looking at his watch.  Apparently I’ve suddenly developed a bedtime similar to the kids.  So I want to finish up real quick with something odd.  I heard Rilla and Ski talking when I was making one of my trips to the Storehouse to put things away.  Seems Curtis has a case of the itchies.  I asked Ski, since I was going that way anyway, if he wanted me to get a couple bottles of Calamine lotion to send over to Aldea.  Ski kinda smiled this odd, lip-biting grin and said that Calamine wouldn’t do it.  I wonder what on earth that boy could have gotten into?  When I saw him hanging with Ronan and some of the other young bucks at Market Day he seemed fine.

Day 249 (Friday) – April 6 – Cleaning Day

Ha!  Scott wanted me to take it easy today but that was a laugh.  I did skip gardening and preserving (except for removing the stuff from the big drying oven and getting it packaged up).  Instead I worked in the Storehouse trying to catch up on the inventory and rearranging stuff.  Yeah, that was a break … not.  But I was out of the sun and in general just kind of on my own which was relaxing. 

While we were lying in bed last night … and trying to sleep with no breeze stirring to cool things down much … Scott said he was worried about me.  I was never this prone to health issues before and he worried that I was getting “frail.”  As grumpy tired as I was I had a hard time not laughing derisively at that.  The last thing I am is frail.  OK, I’m slowing down a little and I did run into some trouble with the heat, but that was my own fault for not drinking enough.  He says that I’ve never recovered my health all the way since the boys and I were trapped in that attic.  I don’t see it that way.  But he is honestly worried about me so I do need to take his feelings into consideration I suppose.  I expect the same consideration when I worry about him. 

He tried to get all dictatorial with me … eh, not in the testosterone poisoning kind of way but like in the worried mate kind of way … but I was able to distract him with the stuff women use to distract their men.  After a little while though he again said he didn’t want me to work today.  I asked him what would be the difference; whether I worked in the garden or not I would still have the kids to deal with ‘cause we are sticking to a four-day school week.  He said to let him worry about the kids and we wound up compromising that I wouldn’t work out in the sun but he wouldn’t pitch a fit if I worked in the Storehouse so long as I didn’t go overboard. 

It actually worked out pretty well though I doubt Scott understood how much effort the Storehouse really needs.  After breakfast … omelets, sliced peppers, canned mushrooms, homemade cheese, and dried onions, home canned salsa … I found out Scott had made arrangements to parcel out the kids and he would keep Johnnie and Bubby with him while Al played with Trent.  Charlene and Maddie watched Cinda, Kitty, Sis, and Kelly and also watched Ty for part of the time when he wasn’t over at Melody’s playing with Trent and Al.  Bekah bounced around between Scott and the Radio Shack when she wasn’t helping in the kitchen or in the garden under the guidance of Cease who had said he would take over dealing with the cornfield since that’s what he did when he lived with his grandparents.  Sarah bounced between helping with the animals, working in the kitchen, and helping in the cornfield. 

I just about didn’t know what to do with myself.  I felt a little guilty about not having a kid or two in tow … but at the same time it sure was nice to have a bit of a break from it all.  I love all my kids … biological or adopted … but it’s real easy to lose yourself and your perspective when you never have any breaks from the constant pull and tug.  I don’t know how much work Scott was actually able to finish but I can say that there were no earth-shattering accidents and neither did the world come to an end.  It’s kind of nice to know that they can get along without me, at least for a while.  Sometimes I worry that I’m not building in enough self-sufficiency.    I’m afraid that one of these days my pride might wind up making them too dependent on me.  I want my kids to love me … but I have to be careful not to use that love to handicap them.  I guess that’s the balance all parents try and find. 

I made sure all the shutters were open on the Storehouse when I got there.  With that I was able to open the blackout curtains and open the windows when I was in a room so it wasn’t too stifling hot and dark.  I closed the curtains when I left a room and at the end of the day I also shut all the windows.  I know it is redundant but the blackout curtains keep any intruders from being able to get in a tree and spy in to see what we have stored.  The blackout curtains also keep the sun from fading labels on cans and boxes and causing the stuff in jars or the dried foods from deteriorating too fast.  They help reflect the heat out as well which keeps the Storehouse from turning into an oven.  Scott has also put that really dark tent on the windows … like the stuff the mob used to use on their limo windows. 

With the Storehouse opened up the musty smell began to fade from the upper rooms.  I made a note to tell Scott that I think we need more insulation in the attic if possible.  That’s going to be a mess.  Part of the musty smell also came from a mouse trap that hadn’t been emptied.  Thank goodness it wasn’t a big mouse or a rat.  I checked all over for any potential ways for it to have gotten into the house but I could find anything.  It may have come in inside of something unless it came in one of the roof vents. 

Most of the upstairs rooms have already been inventoried and it was just a matter of adding new items to the totals that hung on clip boards on the door to each room.  Most of the downstairs rooms have been inventoried as well, but that was not as well organized and I had no idea if stuff had been taken out and was unaccounted for.  The first two rooms that I worked on were messy but matched the spreadsheet.  The next room was only off by a couple of items and was easy to fix.  The room after that however was a mess. 

This was the room where all the new items come into so there is stuff lying all over.  It also didn’t have a door being the house’s former large family room so the spreadsheet to keep track of additions and subtractions wasn’t as obvious so people apparently would forget.  And it was also where I found the most mouse damage as they are or were coming in a gap that has appeared at the bottom of the door on the rear of the house.  The door is metal but the doorframe for that entryway is wood.  That meant another note for Scott. 

I banged together some shelving units that we’ve taken from the garages of some of the houses we demolished.  These I added in the middle of the floor like library shelves would be.  When I was finished there were shelves all along the walls in the family room, plus there were five rows of shelves lining the floor.  The shelves would let me push a grocery cart down between rows but only with a couple of inches to spare on either side.  I wish now that we had managed to take more of the grocery store shelves before the first Big Fire burned down the structure but hindsight is 20/20.  On all of these shelves I organized our home canned produce but before I could get started on that Scott came by and made sure that I knew it was lunch time. 

Lunch was a salad bar kind of deal with tortillas and veggie fajita mix for those that needed something more substantial than “rabbit food.”  Waleski spent some time I guess going over the menu that we have planned in advance and made a few suggestions here and there.   Betty and Reba humored him and I’m pretty sure we can use his suggestions without detrimentally impacting our supplies.  He wants us to add more juices and fruits and to try and maybe fry more things and/or use more butter to add some fats and sugars to our diets.  Makes sense, certainly can’t hurt. 

Iggy added that he’d like to check all the kids’ teeth tomorrow.  I guess there are dietary changes that you can tell my looking at the teeth … lack of dairy or other vitamins/minerals I think.  Lines on the teeth, appearance of the gums, etc.  It’s really not a bad idea at all.  None of my kids have complained beyond the tooth that Bekah lost and Rose’s wisdom teeth moving around a bit as they try and come in all the way.  The adults should probably have someone look at their teeth as well but Ski is clueless about dentistry beyond yanking them out if they hurt too bad.  Angus took care of Jim’s tooth for him with a punch that knocked it clean out.  Don’t think I’m too anxious to try Angus’ cure however. 

After lunch I went back to the Storehouse and started moving things all around, trying to figure out what would be the best way to arrange each type of home canned stuff.  The family room was the home-canned veggie items; the dining room was the home-canned fruit stuff.  The old kitchen, now taken back to bare walls thanks to Scott and some of the other men, was where we still had what was left of the commercially canned stuff in the big #10 cans but that meant that we had all sorts of stuff in there like fruits, veggies, sauces, nacho cheese, pie filling, and pudding.  The long term dried stuff in #10 cans is in one of the rooms upstairs.   

I had been messing around with that for a bit when Maddie and Charlene came over with the littles.  They also brought Tristan and Tyce with them.  Tyce wants to play with the littles so bad but he isn’t ready to leave his brother yet.  Tris seems to have a deep well of patience for him, like some older boys seem to have for little kids, and was content to help the girls keep our youngest residents out of trouble.   

This is the first time I’ve really spent more than a few minutes with either boy.  Tris thanked me for helping with Cinda and talked about how he’d like to say that he could have made it without our help but knew that really wasn’t the case.  I thought that was rather mature of him.  Maddie nudged him a bit when he got quiet and then he continued asking questions about what went on here in Sanctuary and how could his small family fit in.  Right off I found out that Tris had been going to Tampa Bay Tech charter school and studying auto mechanics.  I told him I’d mention it to Scott and Dix but likely he’d be of most use helping Conrad retrofit some vehicles to use alternative fuels so that we could get around without having to worry so much about lack of petrol. 

I had the little kids help stack the 16 ounce sized cans on the bottom shelves but that lasted all of 15 minutes before they were itching to leave and go back outside.  I laughed and shooed them off with no hard feelings. 

About four o’clock Scott came by with the boys and we had “tea and cookies.”  More like iced tea sweetened with honey and the first Rice Crispie candies that I had seen in nearly a year.  Apparently one of the things that Betty had the kids doing this morning was going through some of the plastic tubs and stuff that had been sitting in the storage container closest to the kitchen.  Several of them contained boxes of cereals and I vaguely remember Dante’ asking about how long breakfast cereal lasted before packing them up.  I thought they’d been used long ago.  It made for a nice treat but you could tell the cereal was getting stale.  When I asked where all the rest of the boxes where Scott told me that Betty and Reba are going to keep them in the kitchen and let the kids make tea-time treats with them for how many days they last.  I need to get over there and pull some of the boxes out and send them over to Aldea.  They’ve got kids over there too. 

After tea time I showed Scott around the inside of the Storehouse while the boys played outside.  Then he helped me close all the windows while I wrote on his work order pad the things that needed to be done.  The last thing I did was put some hot peppers down where I had seen the mouse damage.  Angus mentioned that he’d seen hot peppers used to kill mice – they eat them and it poisons them or something like that - so I’ll give it a try.  It’s not like we are short of them or anything.  Glory knows I’ll have plenty to take to the next Market Day even after drying and canning all that we can possibly use.   

From the Storehouse I went home and did a few things around the house but Charlene and the girls had gotten most of the regular work finished already.  I decided to wash my hair so that it would have time to dry before bedtime. 

I’m running low on conditioner again and this time I don’t know how much is left in our supplies.  I may be reduced to using mayonnaise as a hair conditioner.  We’ve got jars and jars of that stuff in the storehouse but we’ve taken to making homemade when we want it.  It’ll probably leave an odd smell in my hair unless I mix some herbs or something in there, maybe rosemary, lavender, or sage.  But my hair is too long to go without conditioner too often.  I’d use olive oil but I hesitate to use any of our better cooking oils.  In July when the avocados start coming in I can use avocado pulp.  Well, at least I have a plan. 

I just had time to rinse my hair and get it combed out before Scott and the kids were ready to go to the Dining Hall.  Dinner was leftovers from lunch plus a grain “meatloaf” that tasted pretty good when you put ketchup or salsa on it.  I haven’t missed having meat today but some of the guys are grumbling a little bit.  James, who I think is going through a growth spurt, certainly can’t seem to get full.   

Tomorrow however I have a treat in mind.  We’ve planned for a couple of weeks for this.  We are going to have pizza; as much pizza as everyone can eat.  

After dinner we had a lot of things to discuss and first of which was Angus and Jim’s radio report: 

We have some things to report today. The home we checked out is a future vacation spot for Sissy and some of the other women back home. It's home to some new friends, Tom and his brother in-law John. It's actually three homes surrounded by an old iron fence. The boys have collected probably every solar panel in this part of Florida and have the place running like the world never ended. They have a stockpile of them in one of the houses and Tom is making a run to Sanctuary tomorrow and bringing a load for payment of medical treatment. He needs to see Ski really bad. Tell the hospital to get ready for an infected eye. He's had brick debris in it for a long time and I think it has stuff ground up in there. It's bad. John is staying here as they don't want to leave the place abandoned. There's another hyena pack down this way that might be bigger than the one we dealt with. The storm troopers have set up a small outpost or research station really close to Tom and John’s place. They moved in after the fire and Tom and John watched their movements for a few weeks but all movement stopped about a week ago. Jim and I think it needs a little more investigating. Tomorrow or the next day we'll get to that. Today I intend to float in their above ground pool for a bit. 

I know for a fact that Angus and Jim wouldn’t have given up our location on a whim.  This guy must really be worth something but be in bad enough shape that he needs serious medical intervention.  Dix has already radioed over the OSAG and Steve is sending over Chad who was a doctor-in-training pre-NRS.  We might also get Len’s wife – this is a member that I’ve never met – but she was a pharmacist and is only just now getting training in actual hands-on healthcare.  Between Chad, Waleski, and Iggy we should be able to help this guy.  The thing is, I don’t know what time tomorrow he is going to be getting here.  If he leaves first thing in the morning and is driving a truck he’ll make the trip in a lot less time than it has taken Angus and Jim on horseback. 

The next thing we talked over was where we are on food.  I reported on what I’d discovered in the Storehouse and what we’d been adding over the last week or so.  I also mentioned the few shortages I was noting, though nothing was absolutely critical at the moment.  Betty gave a heads up on the issue that we need to finish going through all of the steel storage containers owing to the fact that we may be losing the use of stuff simply because we don’t know what we have in there.  Reba reported on the dairy production and Mr. Morris on the animals and apiary. 

I did raise the fact that we need to be more careful noting when things are removed from the Storehouse.  It wasn’t a bad problem right now because only a limited number of people really go in there but of particular I mentioned that a whole gallon of vinegar was missing.  No one admitted to taking an entire gallon so I suppose I could have miscounted at the last inventory but it just seems really strange and there is even a perfect circle in the dust where a gallon jug would have set. 

From there the guys started talking about weapons and cars.  Bob is doing a killer job on machining the parts for the calista, ballista or whatever the heck the thing is called and some of the other gizmos that he and Scott had sketched out when Glenn was over.  They’ve got a couple of working models and once they test them they’ll start making more of them.  Conrad, rather embarrassed by the attention, reported that they’ve got three different alternative vehicles being assembled.  First is one that will work on the hydrogen fuel that they are mass producing at Aldea.  The second is a methane vehicle.  The last is a wood burning car.  Once they get one of those three up and running they are going to give a steam engine car a try.  Bob is also going over all those old steam engines that we brought back from the fairgrounds what seems like a lifetime ago.  Scott was able to reassemble them but he couldn’t figure out how to bring them up to pressure (or whatever it was he was having trouble with) so they’d actually work. 

That naturally worked into the topic of security.  We’ve witnessed a few helicopters way off in the distance and some reconnaissance airplanes flying at high altitudes but we haven’t been contacted by the military or the NRSC folks since right after the Hive came through.  We thought we’d get some more patrols through here of one flavor or another but not a thing so far.  Radio reports are of some minor skirmishes along the coast with pirates and raiders but nothing inland except up around Tyndall AFB and Panama City Naval Center.  There might have been some at the Army’s training center in Orlando but that was never confirmed. 

You’d think at a bare minimum we’d see some AWOL folks from the NRSC but nada.  Something is hinky with that … or maybe there aren’t enough left to go AWOL or they’ve blended in so well we’d never spot them.  Who knows? 

We do know that the civil war taking place between the NRSC of the Central Zone and the factions in the Quarantine Zones is heating up.  The Quarantine Zones and their factions are being egged on externally by the battle between the NRSC who claim to support the Federal Government and those in the Federal Government who are trying to dislodge the NRSC from power. 

Meanwhile the US Military machine has had to direct efforts and energy to protecting Alaska from being invaded by forces that are after the natural resources that can be found there.  Not all of the details are clear but it’s no one single country but a coalition of forces out of the Sino-Russian border region.  That sucks. 

Dix picked up a weak signal that claimed to be out of Paris and another out of Brasilia.  Bob was able to decipher most of the French but the one out of Brazil was more problematic.   They speak Portuguese down in Brazil, not Spanish.  Scott and Iggy could figure out a few words of what was being said but the woman was talking too fast for them to get much, not enough to make sense of what was being said. 

And with that we broke up for the night.  Most of the kids were asleep on their feet if they weren’t asleep in someone’s lap.  If you’ve ever carried a sleeping child you know what I mean when I say that it felt like we were carrying sacks of potatoes over our shoulders on the way home in the dark. 

On the way home Rose told me that Angus left her a hilarious gift before he left.  The puppies had gotten hold of his shelaleigh the week before he and Jim left and chewed it up pretty good.  I expected him to be mad but he wasn’t.  He said he shouldn’t have left it where they could get at it.  By the time he cleaned it up it was too short for his liking and he made himself a new one.  I thought he’d thrown the old one on the wood pile.  Well, the joke was Rose found a box with her name on it and inside the box was Angus’ old shelaleigh only it was painted pink.  Tied to the club was a card with the words “Dating Accessory” written on it.  Scott and I thought it was funny; David wasn’t sure he did however.  The way Bekah was snickering I knew something was up and after we got home I asked her what was going on.  Apparently she had been Angus’ partner-in-crime and had helped him find the pink paint.  First lidless sippy cups and now this.  I don’t know who is worse, the kids or “Uncle Angus.”

Day 250 (Saturday) – April 7

I tell you this day has been pretty intense.  The best way to start it off I guess isn’t at the beginning but at the end the day and then go back to the beginning.  After radioing to Angus and Jim that our visitor had arrived so that they could tell his people we got a few more details from them on the situation: 

Not sure if I reported this on the radio or in the journal, but it needs to be recorded so here it is again. John and Tom have informed us that their place is used as a safe stop-over spot for a large survivor group that has its headquarters south of them. According to John they’re a large group and well organized. They are also very unfriendly to outsiders. The information given to us by John is that they are rumored to control a large section of south Florida and are very territorial. From reports John and Tom get from some of the few smaller groups they have contact with, the big group deals fairly with the groups already in their territory but run out any that try to migrate south.  Apparently the stop-over here is for when they make northern runs. The guys have no idea what they do on these runs as they don't seem to have extra supplies on their return trips as they would if they were on gathering or trading runs. John has commented that they listen to the radio broadcasts made by some of the northern survivors but don't have a radio that can make contact with them; they can listen but not transmit. Maybe we could help with that? 

Tom arrived here late in the afternoon.  He tried to be cheerful but you could tell that the trip had made an already difficult situation even worse for him and he was in a lot of pain.  Ski and Iggy went to work on him just about as fast as he came in the gate but despite being able to clean the eye out, between the original damage and the infection, there wasn’t a lot they could do.  They called OSAG and Chad will be over at first light tomorrow.  If he concurs that there isn’t anything to be done … a second opinion by the closest thing to a graduated doc we have around here … they’ll probably take the eye out to prevent continued infection.  As it is some of the infection has drained down into his sinuses so they’ll have to deal with that as well.  And the surrounding tissue is also enflamed which could spell some very serious trouble. 

Tom appears resigned to the loss of his eye.  He’d already accepted at a bare minimum he’d lost any real sight in it.  Apparently it’s the generalized pain that has been driving him crazy and from which he is seeking relief.  Still, it’s sad.  Up to this point we’ve either gotten full recoveries or total losses when it has comes to patients.  I guess that couldn’t last and Iggy reiterated that the longer the current situation lasts the more likely we are to start returning to pioneer level mortality rates, especially with children that are unvaccinated or who don’t have adequate caregiver situations.  A picture of the hangdog look he had on his face when he said this would have been perfect beside the signs he has been nailing up all over creation telling people how important it is for the children to maintain a high level of hygiene. 

We still have supplies of some vaccines that don’t require refrigeration … the ones that did went bad before we could gather them up … but even they won’t last forever in  quantity or efficacy.  The antibiotics too; we can use most of them well passed their expiration dates but eventually they’ll be useless and we’ll be forced to make do with more traditional healing and prevention practices.  Sanctuary has already dealt once with dysentery and some mild viruses that have made the rounds since we live in such close quarters.  I don’t know what we’ll do if faced with anything worse. 

Most of the beginning of the day was spent the way we normally spend time; but also in anticipation of our “guest.” 

Breakfast was cornmeal pancakes and fruit salad.  After breakfast I started some of the kids slicing carrots to go into the drying oven.  I may have overplanted the carrots a wee bit … ok, I may have overplanted by a lot; we’ll see.  I already have a patch of them that I’m allowing to go to seed.  And I have a small patch of carrots in the corner of one of the gardens that have been damaged by nematodes; the damaged ones I’ve given to Sarah and Samuel to feed the horses, mules, and goats as training treats.  The llamas and alpacas also like carrots and the broccoli that bolted in the recent heat wave as treats.  I’m trying to get the big male llama that seems to dig trying to “swoof” his breath on the back of my neck to pull a cart around.  Don’t tell Scott but that llama … the one I call Big Boy … has the same technique that he does; they both make me jump and give me shivers.  I tried the wagon pulling this with Ol’ Billy but to say he was uncooperative would be an understatement of massive proportions. 

In addition to the carrots I dried several trays of peppers – both the mild ones and the hot ones.  When Glenn swung by today I gave him a small basket of purple tiger hot peppers to take back to Saen.  He started sweating and his eyes started watering in anticipation.  I also gave him a bag of sweet banana peppers and some pimentos to take over to Phillip at OSAG.   

Lee, whom I hadn’t seen in a while, was there and I asked after his family.  Anne is having a hard time adjusting to the heat and humidity but apparently she has started a little flock of chickens that she is having fun with.  The only thing she doesn’t like is one of her chicks turned out to be a rooster and its getting mean already.  He said she’s got some good size whelps on the back of her legs where the thing lays in wait and then comes out and runs at her.  They’ll turn Mr. Rooster into chicken and dumplings when he puts a little more size on him.  The kids are both doing OK except they got into chiggers when they were playing some Spanish moss that had fallen out of the trees.   

I asked them both how Curtis was doing and they both busted out laughing.  I still don’t get the joke.  Must be a guy thing.  But since they were laughing I figure the problem, whatever it was, must have been addresses and he’s all right. 

I saw Dix and Scott talking to Glenn and after he and Lee left I asked Scott if they had asked after Dante’ and Tina.  Dix just gave me that fisheye that he gets when he thinks I’m acting spooky.  Scott, just snorted and called me “nosey.”  I’m not nosey, just … concerned.   

Anyway, Dante’ has been dang near angelic apparently since his outburst.  All he has been drinking is water and he never complains at all about the extra duty rotations he is assigned on every cycle.  He spends time with his son, but apparently he doesn’t know how to approach Tina.  Anytime something comes up he asks one of the other women to ask on his behalf.   He hasn’t even mentioned moving back in with his family.  I guess you can’t expect things to right themselves overnight but I wish they would at least try to work on things together. 

While I was slicing carrots and dealing with peppers – I even made a pepper wreath out of all the cayenne peppers that have ripened – Betty took charge of all the stuff that is coming in out of the native grove.  Let’s see we’ve got custard apples, star apples, black sapote, tropical apricots, loquats, cherries of the rio grande, grumichama, calamondin, and key limes.  The ones we call apples aren’t really like domesticated apples at all but they are kind of shaped like an alien version of an apple. 

You know what I found out today that I didn’t know?  Betty told me if you squeeze the juice out of the leaves of the custard apple tree you wind up with a natural lice killer.  Iggy was all over that bit of information because he said one of the kids he checked over on Market Day had lice so bad he’d scratched bloody patches in his scalp and looked like he had mange.  Iggy had had to stop in the middle of his exams and strip down and scrub down after he saw that kid.  He threw the scrubs he was wearing in a fire pit rather than risk bringing them back to Sanctuary for a wash.  Ick.  Just the idea of lice makes me want to go slather myself up in medicated shampoo and body wash.  I wonder if that is what Curtis had … but that’s nothing to laugh at for Pete’s Sake.  Men and their little secrets. 

The cherry of the rio grande isn’t really a cherry, it just tastes like one.  I’m going to save the fruit in the Cooler until I have enough to can them whole like regular cherries, or maybe make some jam or jelly with them.  There are a whole slew of small trees back in the grove that have been blooming since March and now the fruit is ready.   

We’re coming to the tail end of the loquats and that makes me a bit sad.  They’ve added a lot to our fruit bowl we try and put out at meal times.  I’ve already got all the canned loquats I need so everything from here on out will be used fresh.  I saw Mr. Morris out in the grove so likely he’s taking some of the leftovers to make Loquat Wine with. 

The grumichama are another cherry-flavored fruit but these are easily damaged as you pick them as they are very tender.  You need to use them the day you pick them.  For dessert at tea time we boiled them up all that was picked today with a little sweetening and then cooked dumplings in the bubbling mess.  It was good if you like cherry-flavored stuff, not everyone does. 

The mysore raspberries look just like domesticated raspberries, right down to the canes and leaves.  And they are very briar-y too; the canes and leaves are covered with them.  Clay Jr. was over there helping his mom and he killed a good sized rattler in the canes.  If it had been in the orange grove I might have been tempted to cut it some slack and let it go but the kids go over to the native grove too often.  Besides, we need the meat and this thing was nearly six feet long and weighed in at nearly 8 pounds.  They told me it looked like a Diamond Back but I haven’t seen the skin yet. 

I took the small bucket of tamarind pods and make agua de tamarind for anyone that wanted some.  Scott loves to drink tamarindo soda but I’m not sure if I can replicate it or not.  I’m pretty sure that they use tamarind in Thai cooking as well so I need to ask Saen if she wants me to save her any.  There are lots of things that you can use the fruit’s pulp for and the unused pod pieces are great to add to the compost pile.  Betty tells me that in Malaysia they use the pulp as a topical application to bring malaria temperatures down.  That had Ski and Iggy both scribbling in their note pads. 

Lunch today was pretty simple as it was another fresh food buffet … veggies, fruits, crackers, dips.  Basically everyone just grazed until they were full.  I already reported we had fruit and dumplings at tea time.   

All afternoon we kept working on whatever chore was next on our to-do list but everyone was anxiously waiting the man that Angus and Jim had sent to us.  Dix, being the distrustful sort he is, doubled the Wall guards just to be on the safe side.  He also told Glenn what was going on and Glenn said he would relay it to those at OSAG.  There are some things you can do over the radio and some things that are just best shared face-to-face without fear of the neighbors hearing. 

Sure enough not too long after Tea Time, a truck showed up to our south.  It stopped, like whoever was driving couldn’t make up his mind which direction he needed to take.  Dix sent McElroy and Cease out on the motorcycles to see if this was indeed the man we’d been expecting.  It was and he had in the back of the truck the load of solar panels he wanted to trade for medical attention.    The guy … Tom … was really uptight until we proved who we were.  I guess he’s run into trouble a time or two and carrying all those solar panels put him at risk.  At least he had the sense to pack them so that it didn’t look like he was carrying what amounted to Fort Knox in the back of a pickup truck. 

Apparently Angus had told him to ask what gift he had left for Rose as a kind of code so that he could be really sure that we were who we said we were.  When we provided the right answer that finally calmed him down, at least as far knowing who we are.  The poor man was in pretty bad shape and he’s been in pretty constant pain since the injury occurred even with the pain killers they were able to scavenge.  But when Ski gave him the diagnosis he was almost relieved; at least he finally knew for sure and there was a treatment plan to follow. 

Tom was wiped out and didn’t come to the Dining Hall but Rilla took him a plate that he ate willingly.  Luckily Scott finished the cute little house this morning and Tris moved over there with Tyce and Cinda.  I’m not real comfortable with him doing it but Scott told me he as the right to try and I have to agree with that.  Both Charlene and Maddie have said they will help watch Cinda since they already help with Kitty.  The two girls also went by Rhonda’s today and let her take a short nap while the baby fussed until it was feeding time again.   

So Tris and his little family have moved out of the Clinic and Rose and Melody spent the day sanitizing everything, especially the “surgery,” in case Chad agrees that Tom’s eye will have to come out.  I’m not sure what the recovery is on that type of procedure.  Rilla said that Ski told her it will depend on what they find when they actually get the eye out.  The more infection is back inside the socket and in the surrounding tissue, the longer the recovery period will be.  I can’t imagine that it will be less than a week and certainly I can’t see our guys letting him drive all the way back home by himself.  A little voice inside my head tells me that this is the perfect excuse for a couple of them from here or Aldea to make a little run. 

For dinner Reba cut the rattlesnake into serving size pieces and then fried it up and then covered it with some ham gravy made from a couple cans of spam that we diced up.  Basically you flour up the snake pieces and fry them up then remove them to a platter where they can drain.  To the drippings in the pan you add flour, milk, the diced ham, and a little coffee if you have it (we still do but not for long).  You’ve got to stir constantly so nothing scorches or sticks to the bottom of the skillet.  The gravy is done when it is as thick as you like it. 

We fixed biscuits to go with it and Rilla said Tom was surprised that we still had flour, most everyone down his way have run out … or claim to have anyway.  We also scalloped some of the kohlrabi that came fresh out of the garden today as well.  For dessert there was either popcorn or the last of today’s fruit bowl.  Might not have been a meal I would have served with any regularity pre-NRS; but on the other hand it wasn’t anything to put your nose up at either.   

Betty, the sneaky woman, has promised the kids that if they have their entire homework assignment ready to turn in on Monday and it looks like they made a good effort, we’ll have an ice cream social Monday night barring anything coming up – zombies, raiders, locusts, wrath of God kind of stuff.  I hope that means we’ll have a quiet Rest Day tomorrow so that the adults can focus on helping Tom out. 

We were all ready to go off to guard duty or home when the dogs started going crazy.  That’s never a good sign. 

The dogs were having a hissy fit at the back gate and not because they were acting glad to see someone either.  Mischief and Mayhem were baying their big dog parks.  Butch and Sundance were snarling and snapping and showing their teeth.  All four dogs had the ruffs of their necks standing straight up.  Mischief’s three remaining pups – the ones I called Huey, Dewey, and Louey due to their propensity for getting in trouble – were imitating the big dogs except their barks sounded more like puppy yelps.  Even Sarah’s dog Pup was standing stiff-legged and silent refusing to let the puppies (all now bigger than she is) from getting any nearer to the rear gate than they already were.  I watched her nip the butt of one of them but couldn’t tell which in the dark.  All I know is I a heard the yelp and the puppy returned to formation behind her. 

McElroy and Kevin had grabbed the big dogs’ leashes and were straining to hold onto them but did manage to get them quiet enough.   

“Yo James!  Dude!!  You up there?  Momma’s hurt!  Dude we don’t need to come in in … just let us inside the gate.  Come on man!  Sommat’s chasing us!!” 

I vaguely recognized the gravel-y voice but it was the fact that he was calling James by name and talking about “Momma” that clued me in that it was one of Dora’s sons.   

Dix had gone up to the gallery on top of the gate just in time to see a couple of other boys come barreling out of the overgrowth and into the clear area we now keep around the entire perimeter of Sanctuary.  I heard later from James that Dora was bouncing around like a rag doll in the rickshaw that she and the boys normally had hooked up to a bicycle that pulled her trade goods.   

In the distance as soon as all the noise of their running had calmed down you could hear in the distance even more commotion.  Dix signaled for the gate to be cracked open just enough for the boys and Dora to enter and then it was quickly closed again. 

Dix had James go down to the inner gate so that he could talk with Theo … that’s the boy’s name that I’m always forgetting.  There is a small spyhole about 4 x 4 – inches with a little sliding door across it.  Through the grill Theo gave a quick rundown of their situation while James pushed a bottle of water through.  Dix told me that none of the three boys touched it despite all of them sweating profusely, they took it immediately to Dora to wipe her face with it. 

Dora and four of her “sons” had been on a trade run to what they thought was a new family group to the west of us.  The story they got on the radio was that the family group had moved into an old farm at the corner of Van Dyke Road and Dale Mabry Hwy.  That description fit the Old Geraci place.  We’d been expecting people to re-inhabit the farm for months so I doubt I would have been unusually suspicious either. 

Dora, who’s been working on getting some of the least deranged of the filthies back amongst the land of the sane, first completed a trade at the corner of Bearss Avenue and Dale Mabry Hwy with a mother and three children (soap) and then had to deal with one of the bands of monkeys that have taken up residence over that way.  They are a bloody nuisance as we well know from our own previous experience. 

Dora and the boys got to the rendezvous point an hour late.  No one was out and about but then they heard some shrill screams and laughter coming from the old farmhouse.  Deciding that maybe these people weren’t going to make good customers after all they turned to leave only to find themselves surrounded by a group of people dressed in ZKK insignia. 

It was a brutal fight after that.  Theo isn’t sure, there hadn’t been much time to really think about it in depth as they were running, but he believes the gang had lured them there to steal their stuff or kill them since their family refused their offer to become members.  Dora was hurt badly but was still lucid when they were tossed into a large kennel house.  What was so terrifying was that there were zombies of all make and model behind the cages. 

They were left in the kennel while most of the ZKK members headed back to the house or to guard the road into the property.  Jorey, a boy entirely too small for his age and not quite right in his head, was separated from them around lunchtime.  The man that took him, said that if Dora and the boys behaved the boy wouldn’t be hurt but he was gonna help them do some cooking. 

The ZKK had set up a crack kitchen … so some kind of drug that had to be cooked up … in the old farmhouse.  What the gang didn’t know was that Jorey had been abused pre-NRS by his drug addicted mother’s many “boyfriends.”  As a result, and because of his brain damage, he had a pathological hatred of anything related to drugs.  It wasn’t two hours before there was a small explosion that took out half the house. 

The explosion ripped out of the rear of the farmhouse and back towards the kennel with enough force to partially knock in one of the walls.  Unfortunately it also tore loose one of the gates in front of a concrete stall.  But Theo and the other two boys had been planning their escape nearly since their capture.  They just hadn’t expected it to happen so precipitously. 

They grabbed Dora and pulled her out through the bowed in section just ahead of the zombie that had escaped from the stall.  The zombie was following them to escape when the front half of the farmhouse blew knocking Dora and the boys to the ground and the zombie back into the kennel building. 

Theo only had a split second to change his decision to go after Jorey, nothing could have survived the blast and there was no time for shock and grief; instead they headed towards the remains of their traveling contraption.  The bikes were destroyed and the only thing left usable was the rickshaw.  The boys loaded Dora up and concluded that they were going to need help.  They intended to head our way to see if Waleski would check on her. 

They couldn’t go to the main road as that was the direction that the rest of the ZKK members were running from.  They headed deeper into the old farm and had just about reached the tree line hoping to disappear when they heard shouting, “There they are!” 

They headed deep into the old tree lot hoping to get someplace where the ZKKers on their motorcycles could following them or find them.  They were running this way and that for over an hour and got completely turned around.  As they came to the edge of the fire break they saw that the ZKKers were there ahead of them.  It was what they were driving thought that turned them inside out. 

It were two chariots pulled by runner zombies.  If I hadn’t seen this nightmare with my own eyes I would say that the boys’ terror had simply given them hallucinations.  What kind of sick mind would come up with something like that?!  Having seen it I know it wasn’t really a true conveyance but was designed more for shock and awe, for fear and intimidation. 

The two chariots patrolled the burned over area.  The motorcycles were gaining on the boys.  Dora tried to get them to leave her and escape but the boys refused to leave the woman who had taken them in and cared for them and fed them when no one else had been there to do so.  Then there was a ruckus in the distance that caused a lot of vultures to take wing and the guys on motorcycles took off that direction thinking that is was their escapees. 

The boys grabbed the opportunity and started heading east thinking they would come out near our front gate.  Somehow the drivers of the chariots must have realized that the guys on the bikes were wrong and they began following a parallel path to what the boys were on.  The chariots would work in the woods and marshy areas but as soon as they tried to cross US 41 they were spotted. 

Then the boys realized their mistake.  Somehow, while avoiding the motorcycles and getting turned around they went too far north and would have to cross over US41 and backtrack to the south and try and come to us from that direction.  The chariot drivers knew that they dare not get too close to us using main roads or we’d like take umbrage and destroy their “vehicles” so they followed the boys’ progress through the shrubbery, getting ever closer as the traveling became easier. 

They finally reached us and the barebones of their story was told, much quicker of course than I’ve related it.   

The first thing to do was to verify the physical aspects of their story and to make sure they weren’t hiding zombie bites or infectious wounds.  The boys were instructed to stand back and away from Dora and Dix went in and covered Waleski while he first checked Dora over.  The two younger boys bristled until Theo told them to knock it off.  “You mess up Momma’s chance of gettin’ some first aid and I’ll mess you up.  You got that?!” 

Dora was suffering from mild shock and dehydration, a knock on the head, and prolonged pain from her more minor injuries … but no bites.  The boys also all checked out though they were just as beat up as Dora. 

James helped Theo to careful load Dora onto a stretcher and carry her over to the Clinic.  One of the younger boys was giving Scott the eye until Scott got down in his face and went, “What are you looking at kid?” 

“I know you.  You were my auntie’s Rent Man.” 

Some of our tenants used to call Scott the “Rent Man.”  Turns out the boy recognized Scott because he’d given them a couple of bikes that he’d found abandoned near one of our dumpsters.  I didn’t recognize the woman’s name and Scott barely did.  She was one of Carlo’s girlfriends that had had the sense to leave quicker than some of the others had.  We could have made a small fortune selling the bikes Scott found abandoned at our different properties but he always just gave them to any kid that looked like he could use a bike. 

Theo and James returned quickly leaving Waleski with Rose and Melody taking care of Dora.  Theo told the younger boys that Dora was gonna get better.  There wasn’t much time for more than that however because the dogs had gone into silent alarm mode, not knowing whether to go to the front gate or rear.   

The closer ruckus was coming to the Rear Gate.  You could actually hear a couple of men cussing and straining to control what they were driving.  The braking mechanism on the chariots was sadistic.  Someone had forced cables through the chest cavities of the eight zombies that pulled each chariot.  Where the cable exited out their front it was attached to a round, flat piece of metal too large to be ripped back through the cable’s path.  The length of cable that came out of the zombies back was strong through some eye-rings along the single bar yoke that attached to the basket of the chariot.  The ends of the cables were attached to the braking leaver attached to each wheel of a chariot.  When the leaver was pulled, a wagon brake engaged and the wheels stopped turning.  The Wagon brake also pulled on the cables that were threaded through each zombie.  A final braking tool was the anchor at the back of the chariot that caused further drag preventing the zombies from movie forward … sort of.  Runners are runners.  They never stop, not really.  I don’t even want to think of the number of mistakes they made until they finally built a chariot that actually operated without major catastrophe. 

“Ahoy the gate!  We are looking for some punks that killed some of our people and wrecked up our home!  Seen ‘em around?!” one of the ZKKers called, trying to bluff their way out of the confrontation. 

Dix said one word, “No.” and then looked at James and Bob.  It was like shooting fish in a barrel.  Sixteen easy headshots for sixteen zombies.  The two humans … well, relatively speaking they were human … ran off into the trees after the first couple of shots. 

You know, I’ve discovered that lack of caffeine isn’t the only thing that can get ol’ Bob a wee bit uptight.  The man must have been cussing in at least five different languages at the first sight of the chariots.  I think Dix gave him the nod instead of Cease just so he could blow off some of the steam he had built up. 

That took care of the ruckus at the Rear Gate, now all we had to figure out was how to deal with the sounds of motorcycles coming down the highway towards the Front Gate. 

Charlene and Maddie ran over to me and asked if it was all right that Tris had brought Tyce and Cinda over.  I nodded and then they asked if they needed to prepare to have other people come in for a siege.  I told them that I wasn’t sure but to just stand ready just in case and to keep the kids quiet and occupied if possible.  

In events like this I’m always torn between bunkering down with the kids or being in the thick of things so I can know what is going on.  There didn’t seem to be any immediate danger of anyone breeching our Wall so I opted to remain outside in case they needed all hands on deck. 

The motorcycles came near our front gate but made no threatening action besides circling Sanctuary.  Even after making it to the Rear Gate and spotting the remains of the chariots, and then picking up the two drivers who ran out of the bushes, they didn’t try and get any kind of response from us.  They just started riding around and around and around Sanctuary.   

A lot of the men were getting hacked off.  It was a passive aggressive move like they wanted to see who would blink first; trying to get a rise out of us rather than us forcing them to make the first move.  Two can play that game and we have more patience to play the game right. 

Theo’s two little brothers were beginning to get scared.  They’d been through quite enough already and this war of nerves was more than they could handle.  After making sure that Theo saw me walking them over to our house I asked Charlene and Maddie to get the boys some wash water to clean up with and then to give them some broth.  After that if they were still hungry to give them some milk and some bread and butter.  Both boys needed more fat in their diet from what I could tell.  Dora obviously does what she can, but she has a houseful to deal with. 

I met Theo on the way back outside and asked him if he wanted some milk.  He said, “No thank you ma’am.  I’m allergic to cow milk.”  I then told him I had goat milk and his eyes got big and hungry.  As we walked over to the Cooler so I could get him some goat milk he explained some of the details of their story that I’ve already notated but he also told me that he would need to head out at first light to let the rest of the family know what had happened to them.  “They know to lock up tight if we aren’t back by dark but they’ll still be scared and worried.  The older girls aren’t strong enough to last for long on their own.  I don’t think the ZKK knows where our home base is but I don’t like taking chances.” 

Good gravy, this boy is too young to be thinking like he has to think.  Similar to James, he’s been forced to decide between childish pursuits or those of a man … and his choice is obvious.  He is going to be a man, even if it kills him. 

From the sound of things the motorcycles had some of their gangsta brotherhood show up.  In addition to the motorcycles, there were now several vehicles circling our Wall; and their speed was beginning to go higher and they were gunning their engines aggressively.  I saw Scott playing with one of the toys he had been putting together.  He was quietly wrestling them into position.  I looked around the Wall and saw that several were about to be used. 

“Ma’am what are those things?” 

“Those things” were high powered spotlights that we had jacked off of all the abandoned NRSC vehicles we could find.  Since they were already wired to run off of batteries it was almost too easy to position mounts for them around the Wall and then wire them into batteries that were swapped out once a week to make sure they were fully charged and ready when we needed them.  Up to this point we’d never needed them. 

The reason why Scott was happy to play with the spotlights was because their covers were some type of bullet-proof plexi glass.  A bullet – well aimed or not – wasn’t going to shatter them like it would a regular light cover.  I could almost hear the gleeful giggle that was going on inside Scott’s head.  He’d told me of some of his plans.  All I could tell Theo was to avoid looking at the lights once they came on as I watched the men don dark sunglasses. 

At Dix’s signal all of the lights came on at the same time.  Even not looking at them directly I had sunspots in my eyes; I can’t imagine what it must have been like for the gangbangers that were caught flatfooted driving around the Wall.  I heard lots of squealing and crashing and then the spotlights were shut off and dropped down so they wouldn’t be impediments to the guards’ aim. 

More than a little freaked out, the ZKKers started firing wildly but with their night vision destroyed they weren’t hitting anything except each other.  Once they actually started taking decent aim at us, Dix gave the order to fire back with intent to fully immobilize.  That wasn’t anything more than a euphemism for if fired upon, return fire with extreme prejudice; the “immobilize” part meant head shots so that bullets wouldn’t have to be wasted later to sanitize them. 

It was over in less than 45 minutes; time for clean-up had arrived.  The problem turned out to be the cleanup has proven more complicated than all the rest of it. 

After a brief huddle it was decided to bring in all of the ZKK vehicles.  Theo confirmed that the ZKK is a large organization, there is no way that the battle killed them all.  If their friends came looking for them later, the less evidence there is the better.  We’d maintained radio silence through everything but apparently they haven’t unless their friends showing up was a coincidence. 

As quickly as we could we started moving the motorcycles, cars, and trucks into whichever gate was closest.  Theo, Tris, and I ran out and started bringing in motorcycles though I had to get the boys to take the full sized bikes while I got the crotch rockets and dirt bikes.  I just couldn’t move the full-sized bikes where they lay on the ground.  Even some of the smaller bikes I couldn’t move if they had flat tires or where mangled.  James was covering us when he spotted the first shambler. 

Craporama.  He radioed to the Wall and Scott and Bob got to try out some of the projectile weapons they’ve built.  Dang those things are scary.  Bob had tipped some of the spears with metal so they looked like a short pike.  Gave me the shivers when I saw one pin a zombie to the ground; it kept moving ‘cause they had caught it through the mouth rather than through the brain. 

Oh, but zombies wasn’t the worst of it.  We had pushed the third to last vehicle through the gate when there was an awful yippy.  Looked like the local hyena pack was back … and they were hungry. 

We’ve fought zombies of every flavor but hyenas are just something you don’t even play over.  The gates were shut and locked tight.  Using night goggles Dix counted over 30 hyenas in this clan; definitely a force to be reckoned with.  I think it is time to start taking corpses back to the old body dump so they’ll stay up that way. 

Samuel grumbled to his father, “Hyenas don’t act like this.  Why are they hunting at night?  They hunt during the day to watch for vultures.” 

Good question.  I guess they are just plain hungry and they’ll hunt until they get filled up.  Or maybe the zombie chariots had attracted their attention earlier and they couldn’t resist.   

They fought over the corpses for hours.  Some of the dead ZKKers never had a chance to reanimate … heck, some of them didn’t get a chance to die the first time around.  If they didn’t move fast enough they were gobbled up.  Every new zombie that wandered into the area was even more efficiently sanitized than anything we could have arranged. 

That was down time.  Some grabbed a catnap, Ski and the girls were busy patching up Dora who point black refused anything stronger than a Tylenol for the pain, and Iggy managed to get Dora’s boys to let him give them a thorough going over and patch job before they fell into an exhausted sleep.  Theo was gonna refuse to sleep but James said you slept when you could and it wasn’t long before I saw them both laid out like sides of beef on the floor of the carport. 

Tris, still recovering from his leg infection, had crashed and burned early with his head in Maddie’s lap and Tyce and Cinda beside them.  Oh brother.  Let’s hope this doesn’t turn into another Brandon/Josephine melodrama. 

Amazingly Patricia slept through most of everything.  Jack checked on her a couple of times and then went to sleep in a chair on their screened front porch. 

I used the last of one of the big cans of coffee to make up some fresh so that whoever wanted some could get some.  I also made up a pot of very strong tea.  I’d have given a lot for a cold six pack of Jolt Cola but that wasn’t happening so I made do with strong sweet iced tea. 

Finally the hyenas must have gotten their fill and those on the Wall watched them move through the tall grass heading north. 

Scott, James, and David went out and brought in the last two vehicles using the tow truck.  James got out of the truck and had the dry heaves.  Scott told me the smell out there was pretty bad where the hyenas had marked their turf and where they’d ripped open the bowels of so many of the corpses.
I’ve been sitting here on the lanai for most of an hour and a half writing all this out while plans are made for the rest of the cleanup.  We have a mess … outside and inside the Wall.  And Chad is supposed to be here at first light to examine Tom.  Theo wants to leave at first light to get back home and check on the rest of his family.  I heard some of the men saying they wanted to accompany Theo home in case he finds trouble and others wanted to scout out the remaining ZKK territory to see whatever they can see.  But, we still need to be ready here in case a contingent from ZKK comes by looking for the comrades. 

Could things possible get any more complicated?!  Oh Lord … I need to find a piece of wood to knock on now ‘cause as sure as I asked the question I’ll have jinxed us. 

Of course they can.  Here I was about to put my journal away for what remained of the night and we get another blow.  While all the ruckus was going on Claire was manning the radio and took a report I just found out about.  Angus and Jim are hurt.  I’ll let the radio report speak for itself (with my commentary added to blow off some steam) and then I’m going to go cuddle with Scott.  I definitely need a good cuddle about now. 

This is John Tomes to Sanctuary. Jim asked me to contact you because they were scheduled to make radio contact today. Last night we were forced to rush over to the building the government troopers where using after a local that wandered through during the storm reported “things” over there. The troopers where animated dead and attacked as soon as the guys got there and it was really close. I thought we were all done for. Jim's here but because of a blow he took to the throat it's really painful to talk.  

Claire was suspicious that this John Tomes was really who he said he was so she asked for proof.  John’s response: 

Jim said he heard Angus say that when he gets back he intends to teach Kitty how to play hide and seek. 

Yeah, that would be Angus all right.  Now, allow me to get something off my chest.  WHY THE HECK DID THEY DO THIS WITH NO BACK UP?!!!  Ooooooo, just wait until I get my hands on those two.  I hate it when they act all six-feet-tall-and-bulletproof.  Luckily for my sanity Claire assured me that the guys are OK, just pretty badly banged up.  

Repeating, I’m reporting for Jim and Angus.  Jim took a blow to the throat and it pains him to talk or swallow.  His right eye is swollen shut and he has two broken fingers on his right hand. He also has some really ugly bruising on his arms from some of the dead trying to bite through his jacket and he pulled something in his back. Angus is in worse shape. He dislocated his left hip (popped it back in) and something happened to his left knee; pretty sure it isn’t broken but it's swollen and really painful to bend. He has three huge bumps on his head one that split. He took a blow to the chest that we think cracked or broke several ribs and he's sprained his right elbow and wrist. The rest are minor cuts and scrapes with one loose tooth. The girl we rescued went into labor an hour after it was over and now there's a little girl here as well.  Woman and baby seem fine, we however are traumatized by the experience.  Jim and I will keep an eye on Angus's breathing the next couple of days as neither of us knows anything about chest injuries. Jim wants to know if someone will stay with the radio 24-7 for a day or two in case he needs to talk to Ski. 

Claire gave them an affirmative because she knew that’s what we would do but it took her a while to attract Dix’s attention and relay what had happened and a little longer after that for the information to make the rounds.  What the heck we are going to tell the kids I don’t know.  Uncle Angus and Uncle Jim walk on water in their opinions and they are going to have a hard time understanding that the two men actually got hurt. 

Now we’ve got another question on our hands to answer, Do we send a rescue team for Angus and Jim or do we give them time to heal at their current location and then make that determination?

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