Tuesday, August 19, 2014

April: Raiders and Retribution (part 3)

Day 259 (Monday) – April 16 – Wash Day 

Haven’t been able to get a major washing done today.  It’s been raining off and on too much to get anything dry.  We did get all the under things washed but I wound up having to iron the last few things tonight to dry them out.  When Scott saw me ironing his socks and underwear I thought he was going to bust a gut laughing.  I told him next time I’ll just let them sour and he can see how funny it is. 

Aside from the off and on rain it’s been pretty quiet.  At first light Iggy left with Baron.  I have no idea where that is going.  Iggy promised to keep a written record of things for me but I’m not sure if I’ll get it when he comes back or if Dix has arranged for drop points so that we can keep tabs on their progress (or lack of). 

Dante’ has gone over all of Brandon’s most current papers and there is only one thing that he is concerned about.  Brandon had kept an off and on log of Sanctuary happenings, mostly births, deaths, commitments and major events.  The basic statistics Dante’ doesn’t have a problem compiling; that’s just SOP – names, dates, events.  However, he asked Dix to ask me if I help with some of the minutiae like what gets harvested each week, the “firsts” for any of the kids, birthdays, anniversaries, etc.  I figure I already do it to a certain extent so I agreed to help so long as it didn’t interfere with my current responsibilities.   

In that vein, Dante’ also wants to complete another “census” detailing who is residing where for Sanctuary and Aldea.  He also wants to eventually do a census of the whole TTT but not until things settle down a bit. 

And also in that vein I suppose I should mention that Angus has very generously offered up his firehouse for Dora and her family to move into.  He said if we are going to have neighbors it might as well be neighbors we pick.  Theo carried the news back to Dora who has her hands full trying to get her whole brood ready to move.  They are going to strip down everything they can and bring it with them and use it to further reinforce the area immediately surrounding the firehouse.  The rooftop garden and water catchment system she is already thankful for.  The smokehouse that Angus built will also be a huge plus for them once meat starts making a comeback to the area. 

There is the problem however with over hunting the area.  Too many “neighbors” and hunting is going to turn into a bigger chore than it already is.  On the other hand, if we build a real community area then maybe the big predators will avoid us.  Mr. Choi and the Koreans lost half their chickens to a big cat; I think from the description it is some kind of bobcat or a lynx.  We have bobcats naturally here in Florida and they’re probably making a comeback now they aren’t being hunted or run over.  But then again when the nut cases let the animals loose from the Big Cat Rescue facility it could be one of those animals or maybe even one from Lowry or Busch.   

We continue to be lucky – and I believe that is all it really is – in that we’ve haven’t had any incursions into our livestock.  Some of it is the Wall, some of it is that we’ve continued to cut back all foliage within 50 yards of the outside of the Wall.  Some of it is our constant watching.  But we’ve seen signs.  It’s almost inevitable that some big predator or other is going to cause us problems.   I rue the day it happens, but it is going to happen.  I just hope the damage isn’t too extensive and we can kill whatever does it and have done with it already. 

Today we had rabbit again.  The things multiply like … well, like rabbits.   Angus was kinda of bored so he “supervised” teaching some of the kids how to skin a rabbit the easy way.  I’m going to repeat his instructions here but I need to keep in mind that you can’t just leave a man like Angus to find a way out of his own boredom; that way leads to him getting up to all sorts of mischief.  Hmmm.  I wonder if Scott and Bob can come up with a way to hook up a hot tub … and it would be good for his knee also.  

How to skin squirrels and rabbits:  First take the squirrel carcass in the palm of your hand, belly up with the head facing you.  Then use a small knife with a two-inch blade and insert the blade under the skin at the neck and run it down the belly not cutting anything but the skin. At the unmentionables continue the cut around all but cut the meat so the yuckies are loose but still attached to innards.  Next pull the skin working your fingers under and around the neck all the way.  From there cut the skin away from the head.  

The next part is like one of those magic tricks where magicians pull the tablecloth off without knocking any dishes to the ground.  Grip the head in one hand and skin in other and pull off in one quick pull. Lastly, with two fingers, push in under ribs and scoop out innards.  

Rabbit is the same in the beginning as squirrel except after cutting down to the crotch you grip head in one hand and grip the hip in the other and bend the rabbit in half backwards. Then with the critter held at head level you throw it to the ground - without letting go. This whips the innards right out in one motion. Then you cut around the a** and it all is ready to remove the skin as with the squirrel. 

I nearly skinned him for saying “ass” in front of the kids.  It set them to giggling like little fiends.  I heard James telling the younger boys not to repeat it or they’d get on my bad side.  Of course I heard him and Tris laughing about it later, each on trying to guess which kid was going to get into trouble first. 

We keep as many doe bunnies as we can and just take some of the bucks but it’s a little hard when our hutch of bunnies is still relatively low.  We need to keep the breeding stock diversified.  We walk a fine line with all of the animals but particular those that breed quickly and often. 

At least I’ve finally found a good way to get rid of all the chicken and bunny poop.  We’ve got a field started that we’re going to try a little winter wheat on.  We may not be able to do anything but harvest it for seed to use next year but we are going to give it the old college try.  Florida is wet and muggy so I’m not sure if we are going to run into plant diseases for the wheat but it’s either that or … 

Scott and I now have a firm, though temporary, treaty in place.  He doesn’t mention going north for supplies and I won’t burst into tears when I’ve had enough of it.  Well, it was the tears or the load of wet socks I threw at him, one of the two.  I just can’t handle the idea of him leaving right now.  Some inner something is telling me that it is time to regroup, re-stabilize, before we take off on another adventuresome part of life.   

For one I don’t know if we’ve finished with the ZKK.  Dora came with news that the ones over at Westshore are talking big and trying to scare people, saying it will be our fault when they launch an attack and damn whoever gets in their way; intentionally or not.   

For another there is so much work to do right now.  Given that we don’t know what any hypothetical trading venture will find – if anything – we need to make the most of what we have at home.  I’ve pulled out my native edible plant books that are specific to Florida and I’m looking for more that we can have without the added burden of cultivation. 

We also have too many folks at less than 100%.  As Scott points out we have more friends but as I pointed out right back friends yes but will they be allies enough to back us in any fight we run into.  So many people have their own concerns still.  And people are looking at us for protection, not the other way around.  The last thing I want to do is spend the rest of my life playing hall monitor for this end of town but it may very well come down to that. 

My last point is a tad petty if truth be told.  I have to reign in my own desire to go adventuring.  I want to know what has happened to my family in Tennessee and Kentucky.  I want to know what happened to my brother and nephews.  I’d love to know … oh lots of things.  And sometimes I just want to get away from here.  Away from all the responsibilities and workload.  I know I should be grateful and truly I am … but at the same time I want it all.  Or at least closer to the “all” that I used to have before NRS came along to wreck our lives and my independence.  And no one needs to tell me that is counterproductive right now but it’s the way I feel, logical or not. 

Nana is a nice woman; I think she is anyway.  I keep telling myself that anyway.  She’s a little passive aggressive for my tastes but she really does want the best for the kids.  Just her best and my best don’t seem to be running in sync.  The Cheval kids have got to start doing more work around here.  Their brief respite is over.  Even if I was inclined to give them more time the rest of the kids around here are beginning to voice questions about why the Cheval kids don’t help with the chores, why they don’t join in lessons.  And I don’t have a good enough reason for them. 

I’ll give it one more day and then I’m going to have to say something to Dix if he doesn’t do something himself before then.  He’s the primary chore chart creator.  We make sure he has all the times we need blocked out – like school time or special projects – but he is the one that fills in names.  I think it is his way of taking the heat off of the rest of us.  The duty rosters aren’t terribly detailed, every now knows what is expected of them for a particular chore; the time is simply blocked off and it is up to those assigned to work it out. 

Today I had to do battle with Nana … metaphorically as we didn’t really battle … to get the Cheval kids to work in the garden.  Finally I had to be the meanie and say, “the kids no work, the kids no eat.”  I could have done the shocked gasp from her but there you go.  The kids at least came to understand that I wasn’t going to eat them, I just expected them to help right alongside the other kids.  And I wasn’t standing over them bossing them about; I was working hard as well. 

When the tween girls brought drinks for everyone I made sure, as I always do, that the kids got something to drink first and made sure they had a chance to sit down every twenty minutes or so once the heat of the day set in.  I think the kids saw this, now let’s see if it sinks in that I’m not out to turn them into slaves or indentured servants.  They just need to pull their weight and help out. 

One of the new things we harvested today is zucchini.  Lots and lots of zucchini.  I’m going to need to start using it up pretty soon.  I had several trays to dry but I think I’ll wait until tomorrow and try and fill up the whole drier before wasting the wood.   

Scott took down two really good sized tree today.  When one of them came up we found an old concrete septic tank.  McElroy has designs on turning it into some kind of trap or other.  But gack, the smell that was coming from the tank.  I gagged really hard and that takes some doing these days.   They sealed the tank back up real quick but it just reinforced to Scott that he needs to get a pumper truck in here and suck out all of the septic tanks before they start backing up.  We still use the toilets in the house at night using non-potable water like dish water or clothes washing water.   

I know this is a weird connection but cleaning the septic tanks out made me remember that I need to get some yeast going.  Not the sourdough kind but where you take a packet of yeast, put it in a bit of flour, roll it out, and make yeast cakes for later use in baking.  It’s a way of multiplying your yeast.  (The connection is that you can dump regular yeast into your septic tank along with a little brown sugar and you add good flora into your septic system to break down wastes.)  That needs to get done quickly to make sure we don’t just run out of yeast.  Yeast at least I can manufacture, I don’t know where I’m going to come up with baking soda and baking powder.  Or salt for that matter.  This isn’t Alas, Babylon where we can conveniently float downriver and find a load of salt and a lot of blue crabs to bring home just in the nick of time. 

And in the nick of time I say it is time for bed.  Johnnie and Bubby are starting to squabble and James is getting irritated with them.  Padric is sleeping at our house tonight, perhaps permanently and getting him to sleep with in the boys’ room is proving to be a challenge.   He wanted to sleep on the floor beside James which then made the other boys want to do the same thing.  James said he was sleep in their room another time after he was feeling better.  Padric was starting to get that panicky look on his face until Scott told the boys that he’d read them a bedtime story if they promised to go to sleep. 

I’ll guess we’ll see how that goes but I’ll have to write it down tomorrow.  I’m off to bed.  
 

Day 261 (Wednesday) – April 18 – Water Day 

I was too tired last night to post.  I’m even more tired tonight but I hate to go two days without recording something in the journal.  I get this itchy, antsy feeling like I’ve forgotten something important.  I hate that feeling.  It makes it too hard to sleep peacefully regardless of my level of exhaustion. 

First, update on everyone.  Iggy is still out there, presumably with Baron.  I’m a little anxious.  Iggy can’t exactly be having a good time with that kid.  I hope this works; bringing Baron to some semblance of something we can work with I mean.  If he would put as much effort into something constructive as he does into be a pain in the butt that kid could really be a contributing member of the community … ours or someone else’s.  He’s got the energy, now if he could just find an aptitude for something other than “buttheadedness.” 

Jim is almost 100%.  He’s still bruised and twinges every so often but the worst of the soreness and result fatigue is gone.   Same for Dante’ although the man has been kind of blue since Bo went home to Aldea.  I guess that is what “weekend dads” must feel like.  

David’s arm is healing at a good rate though Ski still has him on half-duty for the rest of the week.  James is up and around and only goes to bed about half an hour earlier than he did before.   He’s still real careful of his side but his arm seems to be paining him none at all except when he tries to fire his rifle.  That has him frustrated but he’s relieved that he can at least hit what he is aiming at. 

Glenn got up and walked around some today.   He threatened to boycott any more green soup until I put a few hot peppers in it to tickle his fancy.  Saen rolled her eyes and told me that if I really wanted to spoil him to make him some of the coconut gravy that I made a couple of months back … so I did.  Veggies and coconut gravy went over really well with the gator picadillo that I made with some of the last of the penne pasta in the Storehouse.  (Note to self:  gotta find a way to make Italian style pasta or figure a way to turn rice noodles into spaghetti so that no one notices.)  Fy will likely be returning to Aldea with Saen and Glenn.  Fy doesn’t quite know what to make of Glenn but Glenn’s attitude seems to be if it makes Saen happy that is all that counts. 

Angus will be hobbling for quite a few weeks.  The knee can’t handle any weight at all.  Ski thinks if this was pre-NRS he’d already have had knee surgery but all we’ve got is time and a little bit of physical therapy after the knee had done as much healing as it can.  The knee is one of the most used joints in the entire body.  I can tell every once in a while Angus is trying his best not to let his frustration show.  He is also in some pain.  Lucky for him the kids are more than willing to fetch and carry.  And Bob and a couple of the other men thought the idea of a hot tub was really great … if they think even for a second I’m bringing them mead dressed up in a Viking bikini they can think again.  I’m all for helping the men out but unless they want to wear speedos and bring us women mead and iced tea while we are relaxing they can just keep their fantasies in check. 

One of the reasons I didn’t feel like writing yesterday is that not only was I too tired from working but I was also too tired from holding my tongue.  All of the men are handling Nana with kid gloves.  It’s her age and the fact that she is a nice woman; but, she and I are just not communicating very well.  Scott said she reminded him of his mother which I thought was a compliment until he clarified by saying that she reminded him of his mother the last couple of years she was alive and used to use the guilt thing to get what she wanted.  Oh.  Hmmm.  Well, I’m glad I’m not the one that said it. 

I loved Scott’s mother but she could on occasion … hmmm … well, I’m not going there.  Suffice it to say that Scott saw the resemblance without any prompting from me and I’m totally OK with being grateful for that and then doing the smart thing and keeping my mouth shut. 

She makes me feel like an ogre for wanting to make the kids work so hard.  Well, maybe I don’t feel precisely ogre-ish but it does ping a little on my personal insecurities that I’m not doing enough to make things easier on the younger squirts.  I just wish … boy how I wish … it was as easy as Nana seems to think it is.  Just let the kids be kids and don’t worry about the rest.  The problem with that is what happens to them if I’m not around or if they have to survive on their own for any length of time.  And then whose definition of “kid” do you use?   

In many cultures … historically and in modern times … boys were men by the age of 12 or 13 and had all the associated responsibilities and benefits.  For girls, many are expected to learn how to be wives and mothers as soon as they exit the hatch.  I know that isn’t true of a lot of Westernized cultures but it wasn’t that long ago that it was like that even here in the US.  Heck both my grandmothers were married at thirteen and my mom sixteen when she and my dad were married (and all three marriages made it to the “until death do us part” bit) … so yeah, this was back in the sticks of Kentucky but it’s not exactly ancient history either.  It would scandalize most people these days but in truth I can see the average age of marriage (or commitment depending on how you look at it) falling again to those youthful ages.  It’s one of the issues that Scott and I have discussed at length - emphasis on the at length accompanied by manly growly noise with the subject comes us. 

I didn’t get that deep with Nana though.  All I said is that it wasn’t my intent to hurt the kids but I wasn’t going to underestimate their ability to contribute to the community either.  The kids had to help and I then proceeded to assign them duties commiserate with their ages and sizes.  I also assigned them to a school group and play group on the same basis.   

Nana didn’t like that this broke the Cheval kids up but it is the most constructive way for us to handle things and insured that the kids would begin to socialize into our group.  The kids seemed to enjoy themselves … well, as much as kids do when they have chores … so I didn’t see a problem with it.  They totally fell into the idea of “school time” and “play time” which is probably as close to normalcy as they’ve had in quite some time.   

Nana on the other hand didn’t receive things as well and went to Dix and Scott asking them if they had approved “my” plan.  I have nothing to fear so it’s not like I really care if someone asks questions about the way we are running things around here.  The current schedule is based on a consensus of most of us that cared to put our opinion out there.  What I found a little offensive was the unspoken issue of it not being the plan under discussion but my competency.   

Scott realized I was really stretching myself to keep a civil tongue in my head and gave me a hug and then asked me if I worried that Nana didn’t have the kids’ best interest at heart.  The thing is I think she does.  I have no doubt that she really does care about the Cheval kids as well as about the other kids around here.  When I told that to Scott he shrugged and “ok” and then asked if I thought it was a control issue.  I almost said no automatically … ‘cause at the time I was taking it too personally … when I thought about it.  Then I realized one of the things that bothered me about Nana the most was our similarities. 

 

I’m a bit of a control freak and I totally admit that.  It isn’t one of my most attractive personality quirks.  If I’m not in control I have to have full confidence in the person that is in control or my head and my backend can sometimes switch places.  I struggled with this in particular with James; lucky for me Scott helped to act as mediator.  I’m beginning to wonder if maybe Nana is beginning to feel a little useless and disconnected to the identity she had invested so much in for so long; probably often placing herself in danger in the process.  I think I’ll talk to Mr. Morris about it tomorrow and see what he has to say. 

 

In a way it was a good thing that I was kept so busy.  I don’t like to admit it but with too much time on my hands I may not have handled things as constructively as I did by simply ignoring Nana’s maneuvering.   

I tell you the last couple of days we’ve had a lot coming out of the garden.  I gave the following to Dante’ for the records so I might as well go ahead and copy it here.  We harvested the following:  black zucchini, round zucchini, Scarlet Runner pole beans, Romano pole beans, Painted Lady runner pole beans, Fordhook lima beans, Baby Butter beans, Blue Hopi heirloom corn, Serrano hot peppers, pepperoncini hot peppers, cayenne peppers, Jamaican hot peppers, habanero peppers, green bell peppers, yellow bell pepper, purple bell peppers, red bell peppers,  banana legs tomatoes (this is a really odd looking heirloom), black seaman tomatoes, bonny best tomatoes, brown berry tomatoes (these things really are brownish red), cherry roma tomatoes, Italian heirloom tomatoes, large red cherry tomatoes, marglobe tomatoes, plum lemon tomatoes, prudens purple tomatoes, red pear tomatoes, red zebra tomatoes, Rutgers tomatoes, sausage tomatoes (looks like a red banana pepper), Italian paste tomatoes, watermelon beefsteak tomatoes, white cherry tomatoes,  black mountain watermelons, bush sugar baby watermelons, Dixie Queen watermelons, and collard greens.  I also started harvesting some herbs for drying by hanging them in the former garage of the Storehouse.  And we’ve got a lot of stuff still coming out of the Native Grove:  Florida betony (wild radish), custard apples, star apples, black sapotes, tropical apricots, the last of the loquats, cherries of the rio grande, grumichamas, mysore raspberries (my word those canes are terribly prickly), tamarind pods, calamondins, and key limes. 

I’ve kept the Drying Oven going 24/7 for the last couple of days.  If this keeps up we are going to need a lot more aged wood than we have.  Scott said he’d take some of the guys and go around the area and mark some trees for cutting and stacking.   

We had carpenter ants and termites get into one of our wood piles.  Scott treated the pile and the ground around it with some liquid poison that kills subterranean termites and ants but he said if we get dry wood termites we’re in trouble.  All of the houses in this area have current stickers on them for termite prevention.  The ones that Scott wasn’t sure about he has since demolished.  He’s also treated each of our buildings in Sanctuary with what chemicals he’s been able to brew.  He’s got a few “homemade” recipes for termites and carpenter ants but he hates putting stuff where we may need to plant or the kids play (specifically in and around the house in the edible landscape areas).   Guess we’ll just have to stay on top of inspecting things and cross any bridge when we come to it.  But it is one of the primary reasons why we keep all the wood piles far from any of our buildings, gardens, or trees. 

Tomorrow is going to a full day of food prepping.  I need to make up some more convenience mixes, get the rest of the stuff in the cooler preserved, and we need to sit down and plan some additional menus not to mention decide what, if anything, we are going to take to the next Market Day that will be here before you know it.  It’s this coming Monday.   

Dora isn’t sure if she’ll be able to go or not.  Moving to the firehouse has taken a lot of time.  They can only work during the daylight hours outside and she hasn’t really had time to make up more soap to sell.  I’m thankful I got what I did last time.  Theo asked if he could trade work and maybe get some help building their own version of a Wall around the firehouse and the empty field to the north of that building.   

You’ll never guess what Theo wants to do.  He grandfather used to work at one of those “U-Pull-It” junk yards.  He says there are blocks of squished cars out behind Copher Brothers that could be used just like building blocks.  The thing is they are too heavy for him to move.  He needs adult help and he needs someone that knows how to operate a truck big enough that he can bring enough back to build the wall with.  Then there is the issue of manhandling the blocks in place above the first row. 

Bob and McElroy are intrigued by the idea.  Scott is letting them handle that particular project; he has enough on his plant working with Scott to ramp up Sanctuary’s defenses to the next level.  And he’s already been tapped to help Mr. Choi run some expanded metal siding around the farm area for protection.  That’s going to be two rows … concentric circles … with about 18 inches between them.  They then plan to fill the gap with rock and sand.  That’s a lot of manual labor but it will give them some protection from flying bullets.  The idea is to use all the sheet metal roofing from the various houses and barns in the area as their fencing material which would keep them from having to go too far afield for their supplies. 

It’s cute, Conrad and his son Roddy have gone over to see Mr. Choi several times since the big fishing trip.  Methinks that we may lose Conrad soon to the charms of a Korean archer.  Mr. Choi doesn’t seem to be too perturbed by it … actually not at all.  I can see from his cultural standpoint that getting his girls married off as being a good thing, especially if they are bringing men in to help with the labor and defense of their homestead in the process. 

I think David may have twitted Rose once too often about how pretty the Korean girls are.  Now he is trying really hard to get back into her good graces.  I wouldn’t call it a fight but David forgets that Rose may seem all grown up but she is still struggling with her confidence level when it comes to him.  I gave him a light dope slap and told him he better figure a way to make this better before it becomes a real issue.  I then went and told Rose that he didn’t really mean it and to let him off the hook sooner rather than later before it becomes a real issue.  You know I never intended to get involved in my kids’ love lives … this just gives me the ickies and heebie jeebies.   

And so it would seem that James also has a “love interest.”  All of those chess games and such should have clued me in.  They are prancing around it and it is kind of cute to watch.  I refuse to help with this until I absolutely have to.  Let ‘em wait until they are brave enough to tell each other about it.  If they can’t do that then they aren’t ready for anything anyway.  Scott and I got a giggle out of it though we both are also starting to feel the emotional effects of growing older.  

I wonder if we’ll see the young bucks of Aldea start looking around for love interests?  This is going to get interesting real quick if they do. 

Well I’m off to bed to develop my own love interests.  Scott and I work so much these days on totally different projects that it’s harder to find together time than when he worked at the bank before Johnnie was born.  
 

Day 262 (Thursday) – April 19 – FOOD PREP DAY 

It has been quite some time since I was tree’d by a zombie.  In fact I’ve been making my own luck on the issue for several months now.  Training don’t ya know.  How it quite happened today I’m not sure.  It’s one of those crazy things that just sort of happens in life as the exception that proves the rule. 

Morning came early today.  I was off and running before daybreak.  Breakfast for me was fruit and a homemade granola bar.  At least it’s what I meant to eat for breakfast.  I grabbed it and stuck it in the fanny pack that has become such a vital piece of my wardrobe.  I also had my machete and my .22LR pistol on me … not the .22 rifle, the Ruger Mark III pistol.  I feel so conspicuous when I carry the rifle and it invariably gets in my way and I bang it on everything; at least that is my latest excuse. 

James and David had been out yesterday laying traps to see if we can add anything to our larder without actually having to spend time hunting.  Frankly even a couple of iguanas would be welcome at this point.  I’m getting worried that we are going to use up all of our canned and smoked meats before we get any more big game.   

The sun was just coming becoming visible though it had been light a little while at that point.  I was all ready – so I thought – and grabbed the game bag to prove my confidence in the boys’ ability to do some successful trapping.  Lord knows they’ve bothered Angus about it enough.   

Scott was only three lousy minutes ahead of me with McElroy to go see about pumping out that septic tank and pushing the tree the rest of the way over so the main trunk could be sawed and then hauled to the new “lumber yard” that Bob had helped to set up.  I thought, “What could happen?”  I was conscientious and told the boys on the gate where I was going and I even jogged to show I was going to catch up with Scott and Henry.  Seriously, I jogged … thank goodness for good support bras and a belt to keep my pants up.  And thank goodness I had more sense that to let the machete bang around while I was running; I had my hand right on the hilt which is probably what saved my sorry rear bumper. 

I made it through the cleared perimeter with no trouble.  I had the septic truck in sight and even saw Scott and Henry get out.  I had picked up a little speed and was feeling pretty good and frisky despite the early heat of the day.  Scott turned and I waved happily.  But the look on his face completely threw me off.  I could hear his cry and then saw the telltale puff of dirt to my front left.  Who the heck was shooting at me and why?! 

I turned and it was nearly on me.  Luckily when I turned I pulled the machete just as a matter of instinct and the blasted thing skewered itself giving me something to leverage with as I turned; I slung it away from me as fast as I could. 

It felt like everything was in slow motion.  I turned, again on instinct trying to reach Scott’s side.  Not so much for protection but because I just knew he was going to have a cow about this.  Only when I turned I found three more nasties and they were between me and Scott.  Add to that the men were under attack too.  I later found out that something or someone had dug out around the septic tank lid and the weakened the ground just enough that it caused the tree to settle and crack the septic tank wide open.  The smell of the raw sewage is why no one had noticed the obvious smell of rot from the zombies that normally gave them away. 

There was quite a few zombies coming out of the bushes and Scott (and Henry) were fighting for their lives too.   It wasn’t a horde of them but I lost count when there was more than a dozen.  Scott wasn’t giving all his attention like he should because he kept trying to see where I was and how I was doing.  Oh I couldn’t have that.  Scott went down under a barrage attack from two shamblers and then it happened. 

You know there are few things I’m more embarrassed by than my temper.  My temper is NOT my friend.  And there are only a hand full of times that I’ve truly gone berserker and most of them have seem to come in the last few months, or at least that is how it has felt.  I did it twice as a teenager and scared myself so bad I cried and then puked.  Happened a couple of times as an adult when someone was threatening my family.  It has to be one of those immediate threats to trigger it.  When it happens I’m not me anymore … and I don’t like it ‘cause I can’t honestly remember a short period of time between point A and point B.  I usually come to myself doing something regrettable. 

I have no idea how I got from where I was to where I wound up.  Where I wound up was kicking the gooshies out of zombie’s head while Scott was trying to haul me backwards.  My world suddenly turned upside down – literally – when Scott pulled a caveman and threw me over his shoulder and ran the short distance to one of the big live oaks several yards away.  “I am NOT Tarzan woman, wake up and climb!” which was accompanied by a not too comfortable clap on my backside to emphasize Scott’s point. 

As we climbed … well, McElroy said it was like watching a Lucy and Desi skit combined with an Abbott and Costello show.  We were basically fussing at each other for being in danger.  

“Where’s your rifle?!”

“My rifle?  Where’s your rifle?!”

“Don’t you dare do anything like that again!”

“Look in the mirror and say that!”

“Dang it, you nearly gave me a heart attack!”

“Well I’ll have nightmares about this for years to come!” 

By the time all three of us got to the strongest top branches we could sit on McElroy was laughing so hard he nearly fell off his perch.  “You two are too much.  I hope Rhonda and I can pull this relationship stuff off as well as you do.” 

Well, we thought we were having an argument but apparently he viewed it as a display of affection.  Well, I can see how he might think something of the sort considering in hindsight we were doing as much hugging and kissing as we were bickering at each other. 

I will put this here since neither man will be reading this any time soon.  I actually got to Lord it over them for once.  I may not have had my rifle but I did have my pistol and extra ammo.  The guys had their pistols but no extra ammo … it was in the cab of the pumper truck with their day packs and their rifles.  But did I raze them?  Oh no … not me … but if they ever pick on me again you can bet your bottom dollar I’m going to pull this little gem out for review.  As my Momma would have said, that’s just the woman in me.   

Well, between the three of us and a support team from Sanctuary we soon put paid to our early morning zombie problem.  Dix brought Juicer over and we loaded all of the sanitized corpses for disposal.  Given the smell emanating from Juicer when the squisher plate rotated its passed time to go dump it.  There is a disposal detail scheduled for tomorrow and none too soon.  I don’t know what smelled worse – the cracked septic tank, the sanitized zombies, or the squished up goo in Juicer’s belly.  None of it was exactly lilacs and roses. 

Scott and I did a lot of relieved touching and hugging while things were being cleaned up.  Then I stood back and let him drop the sucker hose down into the tank to clean out what was down there.  He spent the rest of today emptying all of the septic tanks in Sanctuary whether they needed it or not.  They’ll dump that down at the disposal site tomorrow when they are emptying Juicer.  I know it’s just plain gross but there isn’t a real viable alternative that remains when you realize fuel is a precious commodity and that it takes a lot of it to operate backhoes and bucket tractors to bury the corpses and sewage.  Instead we dump stuff out on the concrete and gravel at the disposal site and the big predators and sun and exposure hasten the decomposition faster than would have happened if we had buried them in any kind of grave. 

Then James, relieved that his parents were actually OK even though he did his best not to be emotional about it, said that he’d walk with me to check their traps.  Poor boy, not a single trap was even sprung much less have anything in it.  The animals in the area must have sensed the zombies and gone to ground while they were around. 

James and I did happen to make note of a wild blackberry hedge that was just starting to bloom.  We should start seeing lots of different berries the beginning of May.  I’ve added this to my own trips outside of Sanctuary in the form of visiting some U-Pick places in hopes of finding something viable that hasn’t already been claimed by others.  Let’s see, tomorrow Scott and Bob have promised to take me to Lowry or Busch to check for those caffeine plants, then the market day is Monday, and near the beginning of May I’ll have the U-Pick farms to track down and visit. 

I went back to Sanctuary mid-morning to get started on my list of food prep.  James and I no sooner step through the gates than we’re met by Ski who had a worried look on his face.  Padric scared the girls so bad Rose carried him over to the Clinic.  They couldn’t get him to stop crying and rocking himself.  I run over there and he must have heard James’ voice because he comes barreling out the door despite the mild sedative that Ski had given him.  He hitches his breath but instead of running to James like I expected him to he runs into me so hard Ski grabbed my arm to help me keep upright. 

I wound up having to sit right down in the yard with him while he was crying.  “Don’t do that!  Don’t do that!!  They promised to come for me but they never did!!!  I saw them get in the truck with Celeste but they never came back for me!”  Over and over and over.  I just held him and let him cry.  I looked at Dix who had come out but he just shrugged.  Nana came over and I looked at her inquiringly but she didn’t know either. 

It was Fy that finally explained, “Celeste is his little sister.  His mom was going to have another baby too so they got evacuated out.  His dad had some kind of blood problem and got evacuated out with them.  We were all supposed to go out on the next big truck but it never came.” 

I asked her if her parents went out on the same truck.  “My parents never came home from work,” was her quiet answer and then she turned her face into Saen’s shoulder. 

Padric finally fell into a quiet state that wasn’t quite sleep but he wasn’t quite a wake either.  I carried him … he’s small for his age … to our house and James said he would watch him.  “Mom I didn’t mean anything by it.” 

“What honey?” 

“I told him … well, I told him he needed to treat you and Dad like his own parents because we were taking care of him now.” 

Then I had to reassure James and tell him that it was OK.  Scott and I have talked about it and we’ll take Padric in.  I can’t handle another infant right now but a child Padric’s age is different.  And it feels right in a way that taking Cinda in hadn’t.  I just hope we are up to the obvious emotional trauma that Padric is experiencing.  He’s a needy kid but with all of us in the house we should be able to handle that part of it.  I just hope we can help him gain some self-confidence which is what he appears to lack most of all. 

For all that had happened already at that point there was still another hour or so before lunch time.  I wasn’t on cooking duty so I finally started what I had needed to get to.  I switched out what was in the Drying Oven and then bagged and tagged what went into storage.  I also canned up a bunch of the stuff that had been accumulating in the Cooler and with the help of the teen and tween girls it went quicker than I expected it to.  More hands make for a lighter work load. 

Lunch came and went and so did dinner before I was satisfied with what I had accomplished for the day.  I cleaned up the last of the mess and then headed home.  I was quiet as I entered because I heard Scott reading the kids Endurance about Ernest Skackleton.  The boys loved it.  The next story will be one that Scott picks for the girls to enjoy. 

I was happy to have a little peace, it gave me time to finally read one of Angus’ journal entries and get it transcribed for Bekah to read.   

Sightseeing Part One by Angus Cuddie 

Well I promised Bekah I'd keep this log for her on this trip so here it goes.  Day three, I know but I haven't had time to write till now. OK I didn't want to. It's freakin hot, too hot to do much by the time we stop. Jim said he'd tell on me if I did start writing so here I am. We haven't gotten more than 40 miles as we have to stop every two so the horses don't get to hot. Not much to see yet as we are still in and out of the burn zone. More in than out. It's like the fire jumped over small areas. I think the most impressive sights of the fire are the cars. Some of them are little more than piles of black metal. We have seen more animals than we thought we would, mostly small ones. The ones that had burrows to hide in.  

Jim had a close up encounter with one this morning. The mule likes to tell us when it's morning, and Jim was doing his morning business when he heard something. He had his revolver out and was creeping into the dark to investigate when I heard him start cursing and yelling in his native tongue (so I didn't have the slightest idea what he was saying as I don’t speak Australian).   I was running with my short shotty and he came stumbling back into sight waving his hands in front of his face and shaking his head making the oddest face I’ve seen. Then the smell hit me.  

Turned out our Aussie friend stepped on one of our American skunks and found something he now fears more than the dead. After I was sure he didn't get hit in the eyes I had him get the clothes off as fast as he could. Turned out he was pretty lucky and it didn't take a direct hit.  Lucky for me too.  Enough still soaked through to make him stink petty bad. We didn't have access to water for him to take a bath yet and if he put on his spare clothes they were going to stink just as bad as he did so we had a situation.  

I decided pretty quick I wasn't going to be seen traveling across the state with some naked Aussie, you know that’s how rumors get started. I gave Jim my spare kilt as I had brought it along with the spare pants in my saddle bag. That would leave me with only the pants as back up clothes but he only had the one extra set of clothes so what you gonna do.  

While he was trying to figure out how to keep the kilt on - he's got a smaller waist than I do - without a belt, I saddled the horse and packed up the little we had out. Till this point I had kept from laughing at his predicament, but when he walked up to his horse to mount up I lost it. The horse got one good whiff of him and backed up away from him. He looked at the horse and told it he wasn't any happier about it either. That didn't seem to be enough for the horse.  

I tried to stop my laughing after the first outburst but it was imposable. Jim ended up having to ride the mule for the day. The horse wouldn't even let him close enough to remove the saddle I had to do it. The mule had a very odd look on its face most of the day and Jim looked like he couldn't decide how he felt about the whole thing.   Jim's sense of humor couldn't stay put for long though. He was making a lot of jokes  - from a distance - about the dang critters in America.  

The view we had was pretty much as it had been since we left. Trees without limbs just standing there waiting to be blown down in some storm, broken walls of homes and business. The roads were something else, most of the roads have been burned clean of the growth that had been taking over but some sections must have been hot enough for the asphalt to burn. In these sections all that’s left is black crunching stones under the horse’s hoofs.  

Had to leave the big dogs behind as we’re going by horse. They’re not build for long distance walks like this. Mischief is back at sanctuary "guarding Bekah."  That always amuses me. Haven't found anything of interest or use yet but we did pass a little building that used to be a small daycare that wasn't too damaged. The only thing inside that I took was a stack of giant pencils, didn't know they still made the things. We hope to find some place that isn't destroyed to stop at for a day or two as we need to give the horses a good rest without their saddles on.  

Because we have had to camp out in the open we have been keeping the saddles on in case we need to move out fast in the dark. We remove them before we make camp but before dark they go back on. Scrappy has taken a liking to the mice that seem to be every place you look out here. Every time I look at him he seems to be chewing on one.   Speaking of Scrappy, he has developed a stronger liking for Jim now that he's sporting a new perfume.  

The vastness of the view out here is really odd after the fire. You can see a lot farther than before and it's all empty, just the native plant life taking over. I can’t imagine what it will look like in a few years. I did notice something that might be of use, some of the homes that have burned to the ground have oil tanks for heating oil. Hadn't thought of that before it being so hot down here all the time. Heating oil is just poorer grade diesel fuel. Wonder where there supplies came from. Gotta go, Scrappy and Jim are fighting over who gets to use the blankets tonight. 

And with that done and not much editing for language I’m off to bed.  Tomorrow is cleaning day and I need to flip all the mattresses after I air them out some.  I hope to goodness it doesn’t rain.
 

Day 264 (Saturday) – April 21 

I … am … tired.   

This is getting ridiculous.  Am I simply feeling my age or is this what I have to look forward to for the rest of my life?  I took a good look at myself in the mirror last night and just cried.  So stupid.  It’s not like I’ve ever been seriously vain … well Ok, I’m more vain that I’ll admit to and less vain that I could be.  But if I had been seriously vain before I’d probably be in the loony bin by now with catastrophic psyche failure.   

I keep cracking on the joke that I’m half the woman I used to be.  Silly and it only covers up the fact that I was heavier than I should have been before and now that I’ve lost the weight I can’t seem to stem the tide.  Every few weeks I have to cinch something in, tighten a seam, hitch something up.  My muscles were pretty good pre-NRS but now they are pretty well defined from the loss of body fat and the increased manual labor.  I guess one of the biggest shocks has been I can no longer count the number of gray hairs I have.  I’m still more brunette than white headed but they sure do stand out and I swear my hair is getting thinner. 

Gack, girl, get over yourself.  You are a forty-something mom of too many kids to be worrying that you no longer look like Sheena of the Jungle.  For that matter you never looked like Sheena of the Jungle. 

Whoever is reading this will be looking back and wondering what set the crazy journal writer off because – thank goodness – she doesn’t often fall to feeling sorry for herself.  Well, it started yesterday. 

I already had a list of all the cleaning I wanted done before breakfast even started.  Rose had to work most of the day in the Clinic so Charlene and Maddie said that they’d keep the kids on task.  I was going with Scott and Bob and we were going to check Lowry Park Zoo and Busch Gardens to see about those plants that I wanted.  It was only going to be the three of us because everyone else already had a lot of projects going.  Or the ones that were free weren’t really physically up to traipsing through the jungle. 

We took the F350 and used some of our precious diesel.  Had the excursion been closer to home Bob said we could have taken one of the other vehicles that had been modified.  But we didn’t know what we would find nor whether there would be some rough travelling to get there. 

First we drove south to hit Lowry Park Zoo first where I was going to see if I could get that display of Amazon plants that I remember near the bird exhibit.  Trying to get into the park was more difficult than we had anticipated.  The overgrowth was quite bad and some group had even tried to block off the entrance and take the park over.  Their luck wasn’t good on that score.  The corpses looked half eaten, though whether that was by zombies or by animals it was too hard to tell. 

I’m glad the exhibit wasn’t too far into the park.  It took all three of us hacking with machetes (yes, I had Old Faithful with me) nearly 20 minutes to get back to that area.  I had buckets of rich planting medium in the truck bed but I wanted to get as much of the soil as I could when I dug up the guarana bushes.  That was suck-y kind of job and I jumped every time I would hear something rustling around too close.  I got a whole slew of little bushes.  I hope they breed true.  The two big ones I couldn’t get.    

Before we turned Scott asked me if there was anything else I wanted.  Bob looked at him like he was crazy.  To be honest I could have probably enjoyed some exploring but we had gotten what we came for and pushing too much further into the bush on all sides could lead us into trouble we didn’t need.  We fought our way back out with the plants I did pick.  I nearly had a heart attack when I saw a large boa draped over a tree branch but that was about as dangerous as it got. 

From there we headed to Busch Gardens.  Memories from my last excursion there danced in my head.  It was like a ghost town between Lowry and Busch.  It felt emptier than a hurricane would shut Tampa down.  And with good reason, Tampa really is turning into a ghost town.  There are pockets of civilization like what we are developing in the TTT but in other areas the only thing you’ll find in the stray walking corpse here and there. 

Busch Gardens was easier to get into because it was surrounded by concrete … concrete roads, concrete walls, large concrete expanses of parking areas.  I directed the men to the section I wanted to head towards which was the West African displays.  Sure enough, there they were.  These plants were much more difficult to gather.  I had to use a shovel, pitchfork, and ultimately a small spade to get the roots and rootlets out of the surrounding ground with the least amount of damage. 

This time Scott didn’t ask if I wanted to look at anything before we left.  The atmosphere within the park boundaries was oppressive.  It was freaky as heck for me to look at all the overgrowth and damage and then try and match it to my memories of the park when I worked there as a teenager.  This time though Bob wanted to stop.  He motioned for us to follow him into several maintenance buildings. 

While we were in one we heard quiet giggling and shushing approaching.  “How are we gonna do it Em?” 

“Same way as last time.  Get rid of the old chick and the guys’ll be ours.” 

“Yeah.  For as long as they last.” 

I’ll give Scott and Bob credit, they really did try to hold back the grins.  I on the other hand was not terribly amused to say the least.  I whispered to Scott, “If I’m an old chick what does that make you my friend who is two years old than I?”  He got the message. 

As for what they wanted the guys for I figured part of it was obvious and needed no explanation for those with an ounce of imagination.  But the chicklets did not appear to really be the Amazon type so there had to be something more to it.  I thought and then had to elbow the two guys as they were thinking a little too out loud about possibilities.   

“Hey, keep the graphic stuff to a minimum if you don’t mind.  There is still a lady around here regardless of the slut brigade’s intentions.” 

Scott snickered and mumbled something about “old chick” and they thought it was funny.  I don’t think Scott realized … heck I didn’t realize … how much it was hurting my feelings at the time.   

Then the thoughts finally coalesced and I said, they aren’t Amazons, they’re bait.  Scott and Bob are quick studies.   

“Could be,” replied Bob after a thoughtful look.  Ya gotta love that barely discernable German accent he has.  “Look at the anchor each of those Mädchen have on their arms.” 

Then Scott asked, “Part of a press gang maybe?  If so, what are they doing so far inland?” 

“People on the coast wary enough to protect themselves?  The US military’s presence?  The coasts are too thin of people?  Does it really matter?” I hypothesized. 

Bob said, “It could matter.  Depends on how many they are.  You said the river is not too far from here.” 

Yeah, he was right.  There were two or three places relatively close to our current position that the Hillsborough River is easy to access, a lot more than that if you are taking into account where it runs behind homes and through parks.  Heck, they could have caught sight of us at Lowry Park Zoo since the river runs right beside it.  We never did find out for sure. 

Suddenly a guy came on the scene.  “You found those two yet?  No?  Then forget ‘em, we got more than we need anyway.  Cap’n is calling us back to base so we can take off.” 

Well, we knew at that point we were at least partly correct.  The five chicklets slithered and jiggled their way back the way they had come.  I was ready to just leave the scene, still in a snit over the “old chick” comment.  Scott and Bob on the other hand got it into their heads that we could have press gangs roaming around town potentially causing us more problems down the road. 

I probably would have agreed with them more readily in different circumstances but I was hot, sweaty, dirty and could cranky to the description too.  But I also knew that their conclusion was the correct one.  We needed to see what was up. 

One of the first things Conrad had done to all of our vehicles was to modify them and upgrade as many parts as we could scavenge so that they ran as quietly has he could rig it.  Normally the F350 is a pretty loud machine but now, with the new muffler and exhaust system plus the F350 we had was the latest and most fuel efficient model on the market at the time and ran more quietly.  Conrad further fiddled with it and it that heavy diesel engine actually ran more quietly than my new-ish Chevy Astro van had (at least before it was cannibalized for parts for one of our gathering run passenger vans). 

So we followed them out of the park.  One of them said something about slashing the truck tires but the head ... um, female (OK, so I’m thinking it but that doesn’t mean I have to write it) … said to skip it and they’d come back for us later if there was time.  Scott and Bob said that they lost respect for them as opponents at that point.  Not me.  My opinion is that just because an enemy makes one stupid mistake it doesn’t guarantee that they’ll make any more of them. 

Sure enough they headed south on 40th Street which would take them to the closest river crossing area.  The bridge on 40th street had been replaced and modernized a couple of years ago.  In fact that whole road had been “rejuvenated and updated” between Busch Blvd. and Hillsborough Avenue.  They’d knocked out a lot of the curves, widened the road, and even landscaped when they had put in a new drainage system for the area.   

Scott and I both knew how to take several side roads so that we could keep up with them without riding their bumper … assuming the side roads cooperated by not being blocked. 

We weren’t lucky enough not to have to deal with a fair amount of road blockage.  I still don’t know what the heck that piano was doing sitting right in the middle of a four-way stop.  We lost them when we had to detour around debris from a house fire that had fallen into the side road but we were close enough to the river by that point that it didn’t matter. 

We parked the truck a few blocks back and then concealed in the carport of an abandoned house.  Anyone with sense could tell the car was too clean for its location but we took the chance any way. 

They stuck me in the middle.  Bob was point and Scott brought up the rear.  I helped keep Bob pointed in the right direction but it really wasn’t necessary.  We could hear a ruckus up ahead of our position.  When we were just a house away from the river, but to the west of the bridge, we belly crawled through the bushes until we got a clear view of what was going on. 

About a dozen men, most in what looked to be their 30s and 40s, were fighting with the river pirates.  And yep, that’s what they were; or more appropriately river rats are what they were.  Bob and Scott gave a little assist to the struggling me by taking out some of the pirates with well-placed shots.  That only threw everyone into confusion not know where the shots came from or from whom. 

Several of the pirates were pushed into the water … can you believe that two of them screamed they couldn’t swim?!  Those two could drown pretty good however and the thrashing and noise attracted several gators that had been sunning themselves on the river banks.  Then Bob took out the guy that looked like he was in charge of the pirates.  That added even more to the confusion. 

Yeah, I’ll admit it.  I was tempted to take my pound of flesh out on the women but I didn’t.  I don’t know whether it was the right thing or not.  I want to believe that I refrained from killing them because I wanted something to set me apart from them, to make me better regardless of their opinion.  On the other hand, I could have just been too prideful and now an evil still roams about because I was too afraid to just go ahead and do what someone is likely going to do at some point anyway if they continue with their current behavior. 

I don’t know what tipped the battle’s favor to the pressed men; us (or should I say Bob and Scott), the gators that had gotten quite excited by the brouhaha, or the small crowd of zombies that were drawn to the fighting.  All three factors probably played a role.  The last I saw of the five women was their tattooed lower backs as they sped away in a small bass boat.  Most of the pirates themselves were killed or ran off along the bank calling for the girls to come back and pick them up.  Several of the pressed men were also killed but the remainder took off in a small fishing boat heading in the opposite direction of the women’s boat.  The few people remaining on shore were zombie chow. 

Within fifteen minutes most of the zombies had continued on their haphazard way.  The few shamblers that remained were quickly put down by well-placed shots.  We kicked the bodies over into the river for the pleasure of the gators.  Even though that had an amazingly large ick-factor it also kept the gators from coming onto shore or climbing up onto the two flat bottom barges that were attached to a post-NRS built dock.  That told us the river rats … or someone … had been using this as a loading area for long enough that the wood had weathered despite it being pressure treated posts. 

We could see immediately that both boats had been damaged in the fighting.  One was beginning to take on water through a hole in the bottom and the other had a damaged pontoon that was causing it to list pretty radically. 

There were boxes and fuel cans all over the decks of both boats.  We knew that one of us would have to run back for the truck while the other two quickly began to unload the boats.  I went to grab the keys to take off running, leaving the guys for the heavy work.  I would have probably gotten away with it too if I had just kept my fool mouth shut when Scott resisted just a bit. 

“Come on, what trouble could I possibly get into between here and the truck?”  Scott and Bob looked at each other with identical expressions and then Scott gave the keys to Bob.  Grrr.   

It didn’t take long to see that we needed to unload the listing boat first, starting at the corner that was sitting deepest into the water.  Box after box was shoved onto the dock.  Some of them were too heavy for me so I just grabbed what I could and when there was nothing left that I could lift on that boat I stepped into the standing water in the other boat and continued on there. 

Scott and Bob actually had to move most of the boxes.  They were full of cans … mostly food but there were also cases of ammo though nothing to get too excited about.  Most of them were reloads (this according to Bob) and were low calibers (this according to Scott).  To me they were all just bullets but when I say that the men all give me this … this look like I’ve said something inexcusably rude.  At least I’ve learned those things that you hook into the guns where the ammo goes are called “magazines” and not “clips.”  Making that mistake usually drew a long and involved lecture that would all but put me to sleep on my feet.  Geez, they are so sensitive about that stuff. 

Not all of the boxes and junk would fit into the bed of the truck but we solved that by finding a boat on a trailer in one of the nearby houses and hooking it up to our hitch.  I wound up carrying most of my plants in my lap all the way back to Sanctuary where they were waiting for us at the gate to help unload. 

We were a couple of hours later than we had intended and were famished.  Grabbing a quick bite of leftovers that had been saved back for us, I headed home to check on the kids’ progress on the house.  Nearly everything that I had asked had already been finished except for scrubbing the bottom cabinet under the sink and my Sarah was doing that when I walked in. 

I thanked them and praised them for a job well done and then sent them all, except for Kitty, to help Dante’ with unloading the boxes so that the stuff could be inventoried.  I needed to get going on the gardening stuff but discovered I had pulled something in my back when I was helping to moved the boxes off the boats.  There was no way I could carry Kitty on my back.  I would have asked Maddie to watch her but she already had Cinda in a sling and it was going to take both Sarah and Charlene to keep the other kids’ helping from turning into a disaster. 

I was getting frustrated until I remembered.  Angus was due some payback for teaching Kitty to unscrew her sippy cup. 

I put Kitty in a stroller and pushed her over to Angus.  Ah ha … the man looked like he was just settling in for a nice afternoon snooze.  He had a swamp cooler (a fan blowing over a piece of ice) set up next to a folding lawn chair.  On a table looked to be a big cold mug of mead.  Ah ha in deed. 

“Oh Aaannnngggguuuusss.”  He took one look at me, looked at Kitty and then sighed deeply and said to the baby, “Come to visit with Uncle Angus beautiful?” 

I put Kitty’s sippy cup in his hand and made sure he noted I I had taped the lid shut with duct tape.  All the blasted Viking did was smile sweetly.  Butter wouldn’t have melted in his mouth.  Honestly.  He was a good sport though and despite his knee he watched her until Charlene came to collect her. 

I was already starting to limp a bit by the time I made it to the second garden.  Pulling the garden wagon wasn’t helping my back one little bit.  Despite getting a late start I was able to tell everyone at dinner that we now had more fresh produce to add to the supplies and would have quite a bit more tomorrow.   

Dante’ reported that we had added 50 gallons of diesel fuel to our supplies as well as 5000 founds of .22 and about the same of a bunch of miscellaneous calibers including a bunch of boxes of shotgun shells.  Unfortunately most of the shotgun shells were just birdshot and not the heavier stuff we would need for bigger game or the infecteds. 

I was hurting pretty good by the time dinner was over.  Lucky for me I didn’t have clean up duty.  I told Scott I was going back to the house to clean up.  Mostly I think, looking back, I was going home to sulk.   

When you don’t feel feminine and pretty it’s nice to have a man make a fuss over you and make you feel better.  Usually Scott is pretty good about figuring out my moods but last night he just didn’t.  It wasn’t just taking a good look at myself in the mirror, it was the hair thing as well.  I looked like a witch by the time I stopped to shower.   

I had a good cry that didn’t help one bit but to make me more embarrassed and even crankier.  And when Scott came home with everyone else I snarled and snapped so much they pretty much gave me a wide berth.  I don’t really blame Scott for not trying to get close to me to find out what I was cranky.  Had our positions been reversed I’d likely have thought twice before approaching him under similar circumstances. 

Needless to say I added guilt to everything else I was feeling and barely slept at all.  I even got up and moved to the sofa so my tossing and turning wouldn’t wake Scott up. 

When I got up this morning my head felt like it had been put on backwards but I didn’t have time to indulge in my pity party any longer.  It was back out to the gardens.  I added the following to our inventory list:  giant beefsteak tomatoes, French fingerling potatoes. Soy beans, bountiful bush beans, brittle wax beans, Cherokee wax beans, contender bush beans, golden wax beans, Armenian cucumbers, turnip greens, scallop summer squash, Caserta summer squash, straightneck summer squash. 

Betty was really happy about the potatoes and fried up some to go with lunch.  The soy beans are getting hulled as quickly as we can manage.  I’ve got a whole row that I’m leaving to dry on the vine.  Betty says she can use them to make soy milk and tofu.  Most of the guys looked horrified at the very thought of tofu but Saen was pretty happy.  Which is a good thing considering what happened later. 

We added turnip greens and fried squash to the potatoes and had what felt like quiet a feast.  It was to celebrate how quickly that Glenn was healing.  So long as he is careful he’s been given the OK to be up and about.  Well, ol’ Glenn took that as complete freedom.  Somehow or other Glenn talked Ronan and Chris into helping him go on a small “jaunt” to who knows where.  It seems he left a note that he’d be back in a few days. 

Ooooooo wwweeeeeee.  I would not want to be in Glenn’s shoes when he gets back.  It is very possible that Saen will melt the ears off his head for pulling this stunt.  I just hope he comes back in one piece and doesn’t catch an infection or anything.  Although it might be better if he did.  Glenn may just find that he’s pushed Saen too far this time.  I don’t speak Thai but whatever she has planned sounds like it could be inventive and painful. 

I worked myself until I was so tired I was nauseous but I couldn’t shake the feelings from yesterday.  After I had cleaned the last gardening implement and put them away I took a walk over to the native grove to try and clear my head.   

I hadn’t been there five minutes before Scott tracked me down.  We hadn’t spent too much alone time together lately so he’d been on the watch out for me to get finished with the chores.  To say I wasn’t exactly “in the mood” would be understating it but sometimes I’ve found that you have to compromise.  And sometimes … sometimes … if you go into with the right attitude even if it wasn’t exactly what you were looking forward to you can still find some contentment along the way. 

Scott finally cued in to the fact that I wasn’t feeling chipper.  I told him not to worry about it.  Maybe I should have said something to him but … I guess this must just be something “women of a certain age” go through.  You gotta recognize you aren’t 21 anymore and your body was going to change in ways you’d never prepared for.  Right now I’m feeling a little betrayed which is a little .. maybe a lot … nonsensical considering it’s all part of the natural aging process.   Getting older never bothered me before.  Maybe it’s just the comparison of what used to be and what is … on so many different levels … that is getting to me. 
 

Day 266 (Monday) – April 23 – Market Day 

Another missed day of journaling but I’m feeling so fine I refuse to let it bother me.  Yesterday was a Rest Day in the literal sense of the word and not just in title. 

We didn’t go over to Aldea but we caught Hunter’s service on broadcast.  The boy has talent … and insight which is even more important in my opinion.  He manages to touch, raise up, and convict without destroying.  I’m invariably left thinking after one of his services. 

Yesterday Hunter spoke about peace.  Primarily he was referring to the peace between groups and individuals but he also touched on individual peace, inner peace of the individual.  Last little bit it has been difficult for me to keep both hands on my inner peace and keep it in place. 

So many potentially awful things come at us these days.  But … it did pre-NRS as well.  Maybe NRS-infected zombies are new but if you consider “zombie” as a euphemism for all the potentially scary things that happen … the things and situations that can eat you alive … then they have been around in some form since the beginning of time. 

But there’s hope.  We overcame many things pre-NRS.  We still overcome the situations we are faced with daily.  The “zombies” have multiplied and morphed into things that are more dangerous that many of us consciously faced before but we prove every day that they are conquerable.  That is one heck of a personal validation. 

Yes, sometimes bad things happen to good people no matter what you try and do.  That’s life and it’s always been that way.  But that bring to mind some of the things my dad used to repeat during tough situations. 

This too shall pass.

People do not lack strength, they lack will.

Toughness is not being a bully, it’s having backbone.

The only way to experience joy is to first experience sorrow.

The fire is how the blade is formed and strengthened. 

The last few days I’ve been letting the fire eat me up rather than strengthen me; and over something so minor in comparison to the other things that I have already conquered.  That realization helped me to begin to recover some of my equilibrium. 

The quiet and boredom of yesterday helped as well.  No major crisis.  No new problems.  No bad guys running amuck.  It was just … I could breathe for a change.  I wasn’t going ninety to nothing and still running late.  I pulled together what I wanted to take to Market Day and made a list of what we needed.  I went around to everyone gathering a list of what they wanted as well. 

Scott bowed out of going.  He put our Rest Day to good use as well and was fired up and ready to get going with a list of projects he wanted to complete so he could scratch them off of his “to do” list.  McElroy came instead of Dix.  Saen came as well but went home with the contingent from Aldea.  Reba came with me and brought some of her cheeses and butter … and got four marriage proposals on the spot while she was there.  Dora and Theo came with us as part of Sanctuary’s contingent.  I was happy to have Theo since Ski wasn’t too thrilled with James going.  Cease and Melody came as well.  Charlene said she’d preferred staying at Sanctuary.  I’m not sure if it was James or the memory of the incident with the ZKK last time keeping her at home but I figured it couldn’t hurt and it freed up a seat that Rose filled.  Angus and Jim both came but they made up numbers for Aldea’s group who were short with Glenn and the rascals that went with him gone. 

There were even more people at this Market Day than last.  Word has spread but OSAG was ready.  A contingent from the ZKKers did show up but they behaved themselves and left as soon as they had conducted their business.  McElroy said that OSAG escorted them from the area, as much for their sakes as everyone else’s.  We don’t need people getting on a revenge trip. 

We did plenty of trading and got quite a bit that had been on my list.  Also set up some deals for later trades.  One of those is for some alpaca and angora fur.   

Jim brought over this couple he’d met on his circuit around the stalls.  As soon as they introduced themselves I realized what had caught Jim’s attention; they were Australian.  The woman was named Kim.  A little taller than me at five feet five and a half inches (“and that half inch is definitely important,” she laughed).   Her significant other was named Daniel … good Lord, another walking wall.  He’s about 5’ 10” and keeps his head shaved like Ronan does.  Daniel has a goatee sort of thing that only adds to the toughness look.  He’s gentle as a lamb with Kim but shove a guy who wouldn’t take no for an answer and the guy easily flew back six or seven feet.   

Kim and Daniel are going to bring some of their work samples by tomorrow and we’ll talk exchange.  Kim, originally with a degree in ancient European history, has started exploiting her weaving hobby to help put food on their table.  She was looking for textiles and Jim told her to talk to Reba and I about getting some raw materials.  Daniel was a techie but also had a side interest in hand-to-hand combat that has come in handy more than once since they’ve been stranded on this side of the Pacific.  Nosey woman that I am I hope to hear more of their story tomorrow. 

It was while I was taking a walk around the market that I came upon a stall that hadn’t been there last time.  It was an open-sided type trailer set up and I just had to laugh out loud when I caught my first look at it.  The woman running things said good naturedly, “Laugh if you want to, but you can’t tell me they don’t look a lot better after I’m finished with them.” 

Well, I couldn’t fault her there.  The young woman’s name was Maya and her man’s name was Jeff I think.  They were running a mobile barber shop and beauty parlor.  Jeff stayed pretty much in the background letting Maya do her thing but there was no doubt he was the protector.  I watched him evict one guy from the line getting a trim after he’d become too obnoxious.  Jeff got to them about a second before the OSAG guard did and had the guy trying to find the ground with his toes.  When you are nearly six and a half feet tall it’s real easy to do that. 

Maya was just the opposite.  As short as Saen is at five feet even she is one of those rare true Botticelli type beauties.  No anemic stick figure; she was a gorgeous buxom beauty and she knew how to wear what God gave her as the old saying goes.  Where she got her flair during times like these I don’t know. 

Her smile was infectious and I laughed despite my envy.  She couldn’t have been more than 23 and later admitted that it was her birthday and having everything finally beginning to fall into place with the plans that she and her husband had was a heck of a lot better than her last two birthdays had been.   

I noticed there were a few women standing around who looked like they’d visited Maya’s business as well.  I’ve never been to a beauty parlor in my life.  I took Scott and the boys to get their hair cut but had never done anything like that for myself.  I have horrible memories of a home perm in junior high and I’ve avoided those types of things ever since.  But for some reason I wanted a little primping. 

While I was wondering how much she would charge Rose came up behind me and started egging me on.  “Come on Mom, you know you want to.” 

I chickened out however and waved before I quickly went to give Reba a chance to walk around.  Rose just wouldn’t let though.  Next thing I knew she had gone over and asked Maya how much she would charge for a trim and a dye job.  I could have strangled that girl.  But … well … when Reba laughed and said, “Honey, you don’t think the color on my head is natural do you?” I decided to just go for it. 

I was pretty sure Scott wouldn’t have a hissy fit but just to be on the safe side I just asked her to give me a blunt cut that trimmed off the dead ends.  After she asked me to take my hair down so she could get a look at it things got real quiet.  I guess even those from Sanctuary don’t know how long my hair really is.  It grows really fast and since I hadn’t been trimming it as often as I used to the longest locks could be stretched out so that the tips were about three inches below my butt. 

“Oh my, have you ever had your hair cut?” 

Yes, actually I have, but never shorter than between my shoulder blades and that was many, many moons ago when my cousin accidentally got his gum in my hair and not even peanut butter or gasoline would get it out. 

She had to trim a good seven or eight inches off to get all the dry and broken ends off but that still left me with hair that fell well below my natural waist line.  Rather than an actual dye she used a rinse on my hair that would gradually fade after several washings which would save me having really harsh and obvious roots.  After my hair dried Rose French-braided my hair and they both convinced me to leave it down for a while.   

Then Reba came over and they started talking about henna and natural make up products and I don’t know what all.  When I took the trouble I would put on mascara, lip gloss, and a natural powder on my face.  What they were talking about sounded like a science experiment to me.  Rose loved it and Melody happily added her two cents as well.   

Thanks to Rose and Melody we have a ton of hair junk in storage … creams, gels, sculpting goop, perms, dyes, etc. etc. etc.  Maya said that they might be up our way in a week or so and if they are we might could trade some of her services for some of our hair gunk.  Might not be a bad idea.  I watched Angus hiding from Maya all market day.  He’s as bad as Sampson (Biblical version, not the raider) was about his hair.  He even braids his beard and has it tied off with a piece of leather string.  That doesn’t change the fact that his ends could use a trim. 

Clean up was fairly easy but saying good bye to new acquaintances was not.  These days you never know if the last time you see someone is the last time you’ll ever see them. 

Back home we received the requisite hugs and kisses upon our return.  I got lots of ooohs and aaaahs about my hair.  Even Dix managed to notice and give a grunt.  But Scott didn’t say anything until we had gone into the house to clean up dinner. 

I finally got frustrated and just asked him flat out what he thought of it.  He got a little uncomfortable look on his face.  “Well, if you like it I guess it’s nice.”  Before I could get upset however got one of those manly kind of pouts and continued, “But I liked you the other way better.  Why’d you go and cut your hair and put that stuff in it.  Now you look like Rose and … and … Melody said some guys at the market were looking at you.  And I wasn’t there so how’d they know you didn’t already have a man?  And I heard that Reba got a bunch of marriage proposals and … “ 

Scott’s voice was going from quiet manly pout to an irritated growl when I stopped him with a big fat kiss.  All I needed to hear was that he’d like me just fine without all the fuss and bother with my hair.  The little bit of jealousy he was exhibiting was kinda nice too.  I wouldn’t want a steady diet of it – men like that turn me off big time – but it did kind of tickle me a bit to know that he could still think some man would be looking at me like that. 

We were late for dinner.  You guess why.   

After dinner we were going to go for a romantic moonlit walk but the skitters were so bad that it went from romantic to running back to the house in five seconds flat.  We kind of laughed about it.  The run had caused my hair to come out of its braid so Scott helped me to finish unbraiding it then he helped me to brush my mop out.  He hadn’t done that in years; since I was pregnant with Johnnie and too miserable to move.   

It was too hot to have my hair down long and Scott was really tired but it was so nice that he hadn’t taken the time to do that.  I got all mushy and just about cried.  I think Scott finally cued in that he might have been overlooking some things that needed saying or doing.  It’s nice to be a big tough woman most of the time … but there are private moments that I’d just as soon leave my She-Ra persona in the closet and cuddle up and be fussed over myself. 

Which I kinda had planned on tonight but since I can hear poor Scott snoring on the chaise lounge out on the lanai I guess I’ll be giving that a pass.  Scott has been working like a dog all day today replacing shingles, recaulking windows, and running wires, fans, and solar panels so we can have some help with the heat and damp at night to make it easier to sleep.  He had even started looking at some plans that Glenn had talked to him about where they could get some washing machines lined up so we wouldn’t have to work so hard on Wash Days.  Wouldn’t that be a dream come true? 

So I’ll go pry him out of his doze and we’ll head off to bed for the night.  Before I go off to sleep I’ll say a prayer for the new friends we met today and hopefully I’ll see them again before too long.  I really do want to make sure Maya knows how much I appreciate the trim and a rinse on my hair; made me feel like a new woman.  Here’s hoping she had a nice birthday.
 

Day 267 (Tuesday) – April 24 

As the work piles on higher and deeper it begins to get more difficult to keep a “daily” journal.  I worked from before sun up to past sun down and I still wasn’t able to finish everything that needed to be done.   

I sincerely hope that this washing machine rig that Scott and Glenn came up with will actually work.  Scott is gathering parts for it now.  It may be this coming Monday or next Monday – Wash Day – before he can get it set up.  He’s snowed under with work as well and the associated paperwork to keep track of what was done and when.  Some folks thinks that he is crazy to continue keeping track of work orders like he did before, but Dix and Dante’ have been very supportive. 

And when Kim and her man came by we were able to trade some car parts that we had in excess for some of Daniel’s techie kind of help.  I’m relatively handy with computers but I’ve never built a laptop and in all honesty had never even cracked one open to look inside.  Daniel hooked Scott up and even helped him to format a work order template that he could use to keep track of things.  Scott will back up the files every day and print his forms out every night and file them by building or project.  Or … I file them which is yet one more thing that I will have to add to my daily “to do” list. 

The girls got all the washing done yesterday while I was at Market Day.  It was so nice to come back to all of the cleaned, dried, and folded laundry.  They did quite a bit of it too.  I spent most of last night and my breaks today mending things.  Unlike in the past we can’t even let a small tear or hole go without mending for any length of time.  It’s either take care of it quickly or watch the clothes eventually fall apart with no real replacements coming in.  I’ve packed quite a few “extras” of things away in the cedar closet but I don’t like to hand them out unless there is just no way to mend a garment again. 

The kids’ clothes are the worst; not only do they wear out they out grow them.  Our system of having work clothes, play clothes, and regular/dress clothes has worked pretty well at making clothing replacement as moderate as possible, but it still happens.  The scraps I save for patches, quilting, or for cutting down to make edging or something similar with clothes need a bit of adjusting.  The denim skirts still serve all of my girls well enough though Rose covers hers with a large apron when she is working in the Clinic. 

As a matter of fact most of us females have taken to wearing aprons more often than not.  I have several that cover different jobs.  I’ve got a short one that used to be a workshop apron that I fill with clothes pins when I’m hanging clothes to dry.  It keeps the pins within easy reach without weighing down the clothes line itself.  I’ve got a one that looks a bit like an oversized tool belt that I have on when I’m working in the garden or on guard duty.  That one is a little warm because I fashioned it out of an actual leather tool belt and some chamois bits and pieces that I sewed together.  It doesn’t breathe very well so it makes me sweat, but it is very durable which is what I need for carrying gardening tools, ammo, and the like.  I have a heavy muslin apron that I use when I’m cooking and canning.  It covers me from chest to below my knees.  I’ve stained a lot fewer things since I started wearing it a few months back.  The only place that I avoid aprons – and skirts too for that matter – is when I’m working around an open fire such as on Wash Day or when I’m burning trash that can’t be put to use in some other way.   

The days of the landfill and garbage barges are long gone.  Before you throw something away you use it up six ways from Sunday or recycle it in some way.  Very few things actually make it to our garbage burn barrel.  I only have a barrel full to burn about once a month.  Most things that cannot be put to immediate re-use we put into the recycling dumpsters; that would be glass, metal, drywall, etc.  Anything that is wood gets cut into lengths and stored up off the ground.  Building wood goes in one pile and scraps and firewood go into another.  We traded some of our building materials to Mr. Choi’s group in exchange for more arrows and Bob is making a pretty good income making metal arrow tips in various styles.  Mr. Choi wasn’t the only one interested in those tips on Market Day so we must not be the only ones beginning to ration ammo. 

Nana is beginning to come around.  Mr. Morris seems to be helping with that (nudge, nudge, wink, wink).  I think it’s sweet.  Reba laughed at me when I said it.  She said the last thing her father could be called is “sweet” and if Nana can put up with him she is more than welcome.  I had to laugh at that point as well.  Mr. Morris is one of those irascible characters that you just gotta love no matter how cranky he is.  His old fashioned horse sense has been invaluable on more than one occasion.  

I’m still giving most of the Cheval kids a wide berth.  It’s not that I don’t like them or that there trouble or anything of the sort.  To be honest I just don’t have the time for it and knowing me I’ll get wound up in their stories and then be forced to neglect some other important project.   

I heard from Saen via radio that Fy has settled down quite well.  She heard from Glenn but he is being secretive about his trip.  Guess we’ll find out what it is when he gets back.  He better be hurrying that along.  Saen is a strong woman but Glenn’s injuries shook her worse than I think she was willing to admit to.  And then for him to run off again so soon probably had her harking back to the days when he would run the gauntlet in his contractor jobs over in the Middle East. 

Padric is slowly coming into his own.  He doesn’t panic any more when James or I are out of sight and he enjoys tagging after Scott as much as Johnny has always done.  Scott’s trying but Padric is a bit different from all our other boys.  He’s quieter and though I hate to say it is a little “sissified” compared to what Scott is used to.  At least he’s stopped crying at the drop of a hate.  Not even my girls ever did that.  He started to tune up this morning over something silly and before I gave it much thought I popped him on his behind and told him if he didn’t stop it I’d give him something to cry about. 

I startled myself when I did it.  I hadn’t thought it – that whining – was bothering me and that I was giving him time to get over a stage.  I didn’t let on to Padric however and after I got down in Padric’s face and gave him the “Spock eyebrow” and asked him if we understood each other – upon which he gave me a quick “yes ma’am” – I walked outside to the shed and just about didn’t know whether to get angry at myself or not.  After I caught my equilibrium I walked back inside to find him just fine as frog’s hair and doing his lessons with the other kids as if nothing had ever happened. 

I shook my head and left to go to work in the garden, needing a break from darning Scott’s socks yet again.  James and Rose both found me there a few minutes later.  It’s rare they double team me but it’s been known to happen.  I was prepared for the worst but Rose’s first words surprised me.   

“Mom, you only popped him on his seat; you didn’t beat him or anything.  Don’t get upset, he had it coming.  Sis and Kitty were starting to pick up on the crying bit and having three of them doing that would have been a nightmare.” 

James added, “Yeah.  I don’t think his dad must have been around much from what he said.  The kid just needs to learn.  He might never been as rough as Johnny and Bubby but he had to learn he couldn’t just cry at the drop of a hat.  Charlene said … “ 

And the Rose in a sweet sing song voice asked, “Charlene said what?” 

I thought to myself, “Oh Lord, here we go.” 

But James got real dignified and just said, “I’ve got to go to work.” 

Rose and I looked at each other and laughed.  Poor James.  I had a feeling that Rose was going to be merciless in her paybacks.  He had been pretty hard on her and David there for a while.  If nothing else this should teach James a thing or two about the longevity of a woman’s memory. 

As for the gardens, amazingly enough we’re getting quite a bit of food from what I planted.  The problem is I don’t know if each individual plant is producing as they ought or if it’s just because I planted so many of each type of plant variety.  I know that cross-pollination is a healthy thing required my many plants and the open-pollinated ones especially like/need it.  And it sure hasn’t hurt that Mr. Morris has stuck a hive out by each garden.  The bees really help and they certainly seem to enjoy the pesticide-free plants if their honey production is any measure.  We’ve probably got enough honey to last through the rest of this year and into the winter and we still have a couple of more months of honey harvest before the hives are shut down for bee production. 

Clay Jr. brought in some oh so welcome fresh meat today.  He headed NE of Sanctuary looking to mark off a patch of blackberries that he had spied a few days back.  Apparently the boar had charged him from out of a garage he was walking passed.  It’s a good thing he hadn’t been gored.  He brought down the boar and two sows before the rest of the herd of hogs ran off into the overgrowth.  He radioed for help to bring the hogs in and sat there nervous until a crew could arrive.   

He swears up and down he felt like something had just about been ready to get him when Angus, Jim, and a couple of others showed up.  Angus said the boy’s imagination probably wasn’t running away with him.  Angus, still unable to put much weight on his leg, hobbled around on the crutch Scott had made for him and found large cat scat while the others loaded the meat up to bring back to Sanctuary for butchering. 

Mr. Morris looked at me with those twinkling eyes of his and asked if I’d fix up some pork chops if he cut them.  Who was I to refuse?  Actually I grilled them on the new AldeaFuel  fired grill.  In truth it sounds kinda silly to call it AldeaFuel but I’m not certain what else to call it.  It’s not propane and it’s not biodiesel or methane.  It’s kinda … or heck, I’ll ask Scott later.  I feel like my memory is going and I’m too young for that.  I must be working too hard.   

Whatever it is it works like a charm and Scott has also built us a large multi-burner cook top and griddle that is powered by that stuff.  He and Bob fabricated the parts using some commercial kitchen appliances and a burner prototype that Glenn had sketched out.  It kind of reminds me of a Coleman propane burner but the pipes that the flames come out of are actually in an “X” shape.  If they ever upgrade to the next model I might ask them how feasible it would be for the pipes to be in the shape of an asterisk which would give the shape three cross pieces instead of the two that the “X” has.  The heat would probably be more evenly distributed that way so that the actual flames wouldn’t have to be turned up so high.  I don’t know if that would save fuel or use more of it but it’s something I’d like to see at least experimented with when there is more time. 

I’m worried about Iggy and the boy.  Dix had thought that maybe he’d try to communicate if there was time but something must have happened to their radio.  I hope nothing has happened to them.  What am I saying?!  I hope Baron hasn’t done Iggy in, I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t try. 

I keep waiting for Angus to get me the rest of his trip journal but I hate to press.  I know his knee was really bothering him after he got back from the hog pick up.  Ski says it might be weather related.  Injuries like Angus’ tend to leave a permanent mark on their victim, including being able to predict the weather by the twinges they get.  I asked Ski how on earth he could believe in that and still look cross-eyed at some of my home remedies.  He never did give me an answer. 

Patricia and baby Josie made an appearance at dinner tonight.  You would have thought Jack was the biological father of that baby the way he acted.  I guess you never know.  Patricia is certainly a different woman.  Thinner though not as gaunt as she was.  Gone is the boardroom executive with the $100 haircut and dye job that’s for sure.  Dix was looking at her with Jack and the baby almost wistfully.  I don’t think he realized how transparent he was. 

I had asked Saen about whether Cindy was ever considering a move back to Sanctuary and she meant that if I was asking whether Cindy was still seeing Dix then the answer was no.  Poor Dix.  He’s lost a lot in the last eight months.  At least he and Samuel seem to have a much closer relationship though.  And it’s a credit to the boy that he doesn’t appear to be the least bit jealous of his little half-sister.  He scared to death of picking her up … she is still very, very tiny … but he grins when she tries to grab his fingers. 

And the baby boom just continues.  Becky is officially passed the 20 week mark and Terra reports that she’s doing just fine and that her morning sickness is finally letting up.  And I suspect we are going to have interesting news from Rilla and possibly Melody soon.  Both of them looked a little off their paces at breakfast this morning.  The young girl Bobby is a bit high strung but is OK enough.   She, Patricia, and Rhonda have been telling their “war stories” and when they start up all the men run for cover or get a little green around the gills.  It’s nothing new to me but every once in a while I still get a hankering to feel a baby in my belly … until Kitty’s alarm clock goes off before I’m ready to get up or when everyone runs off when a dirty diaper needs a change.  Oh well, that’s life.  Everything happens in cycles and it seems soon enough I’ll have enough “nieces and nephews” to cuddle, spoil, and then give back.  I just hope it’s a while before I’m a grandma. 

I hope that ran Angus’ knee is predicting will hold off one more day.  I need to dig the potatoes tomorrow.  If I leave them in the ground any longer they are going to spoil or get eaten by varmints.  I’ve got nearly a half-acre that needs to be dug and then the potatoes need to be laid out on tarps out of the weather until I can get them processed.  I’m going to can some and dry some.  We’re going to try and bag some up for seed potatoes for next season and pray they last.  I’m also going to bag some up and see if I can keep them fresh; that would be a nice change from having to use everything canned or dried.  And if I do manage to get the potatoes dug with all the kids helping Betty and I have planned a treat for them … potato chips.   

Going through some of the gadgets and gizmos in our storage units she came across a couple of those spiral slicers; the ones you just poke into one end of a veggie and then turn leaving you with a slinky spiral kind of thing.  Well, we’ll heat a cauldron of vegetable oil and fries those spirals just like they do at the state and county fairs.  The kids’ll love it.  Some of the grown up kids will probably eat their fair share as well. 

And with that I’m off to bed.  I like looking in the mirror better than I have but I better beware of making a habit of it.  The gray will be back before I know it.  I’m getting a kick out of while it does last if you want to know the truth.  Scott is just happy that I’m happier though he still grumbles a bit that I didn’t ask him about doing it first.   

Jeff and Maya radioed and apologized but it was going to be a few days before they would be by and that they would radio us when they were in the area.  Methinks they might want to check us out before risking coming into our territory.  Jeff strikes me as the careful type.  Oh well, he’ll either get comfortable or he won’t.  We’ll find out eventually.  But Reba has been hunting up all the different hair dyes and such that she can find in storage.  Several of the women have been wondering how much she would trade for a style.  Angus is making plans to hide out for a few days I think; could have been Nana asking him when was the last time he’d had a hair cut. 
 

Day 268 (Wednesday) – April 25 – Water Day  

Praise be!  Word from both Glenn and Iggy today.  Well, some good news and some bad … seems like you never get the good that you don’t also get the bad but, well, let’s say more good than bad and I’m fine with that. 

Today was Water Day but to be honest its mostly just maintenance for us rather than an actual necessity as it has been.  Thank goodness for Bob.  Scott was just plain going nuts trying to jury rig and fabricate things to get by on.  With Bob around some real work gets done.  Oh not that work didn’t get done before, but it had to be done on a wing and a prayer the long way around.  Now they can make what they need from scratch.  Between Scott, Glenn, and Bob the Triune (and our allies) are much better off than quite a few others are. 

Bekah came running midmorning and she had a copy of a radio transmission that Iggy had made.  Bekah said he sounded tired.  Here it is the copy she made. 

Choices and the bad ones we make. Sometimes we make the smart ones, sometimes we make the dumb ones, and hopefully we learn from those. B might not get that chance. I finally thought he fell asleep and closed my eyes... he ran on me. The boy is out there, somewhere, alone. I dunno why he ran, or what he thought this was, but now I have to go find a scared boy that doesn't want to be found in the rubble that used to be Florida. I am no tracker, but this kid is no woodsman either, so at least I got that going for me. On the down side, with the noise he makes, he might be dead by the time I find him.... or maybe he brings down some attention on us we both don't live through. -- Iggy 

Oh Baron, what have you done now?  Despite it all I still feel some sympathy for the kid.  Iggy puts a different spin on his behavior.  He said he used to be that kid until someone knocked some sense into him.  I want to believe that Baron is “salvageable” but I wonder if we’ll get that chance. 

Glenn’s update wasn’t too far behind Iggy’s.  I don’t know what all is going on but I have a feeling that Glenn has something serious up his sleeve.  Out of a lot of our community members he’s one that’s not satisfied with returning to the Dark Ages.  He wants to rebuild our lives, not relive the past. Not that it is any secret but Glenn’s sympathies lie with The Independent Constitutionalists; at least so long as the constitution they refer to is The Constitution.  Scott and Glenn are very, very similar in that respect.  David is too but in all honesty James is even more militant about it that the men are.   

Scott and James like to reference history quotations when they debate … and Scott dares to blame me for James tendency to argue about everything.  Of course it isn’t an “argument” but a debate or a discussion.  Yeah, if I had a nickel for every “discussion” I’ve had with those two I’d have been a rich woman well prior to NRS.  Now they’ve got the other kids doing it … quoting historical personalities to support their position on things.  Nothing can give you the heebie jeebies quite as well as having a five year old quote Benjamin Franklin at you.  Ugh. 

Anyway, before Glenn left on his big mysterious trip he and Scott were having one of their “what if” pow wows.  One of the quotes I overheard was one by George Washington, “To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.”  Oh boy.  I can’t honestly say for sure but I have a funny feeling that Glenn and Scott did some serious brainstorming and at some time during the night Glenn must have come up with some ideas.  

Now whether Scott and Dix know for sure what is going on I can’t say but they’ve put some of their other building projects on hold and suddenly started clearing out that area that we never fenced off that made up Tiffany Lakes subdivision.  It’s against the south Wall set back into that jag into the rectangle that makes up the entire Wall.  The subdivision … or what remains of it … is to the west of what we now call the Rear Gate and to the north of the bump out in the Wall where the animal enclosure is. 

I overheard Scott and Dix talking.  I know – naughty, naughty – but I think Scott actually allows me to overhear things sometimes so I’ll know but so that he doesn’t have to say he is the one that told me.  Nice logic.  And I know it works because I’ve done the same thing with him.  What they were saying doesn’t make particular sense to me yet but I’m adding it to a mental file I’m keeping and once I get enough pieces hopefully it will make total sense. 

Basically they are turning the Tiffany Lakes subdivision into a “skunkworks.”  Please tell me that something smelly isn’t going to be put together there.  We’ve got enough smelly stuff going on but if it is at least it will be next to the animals and not next to the house.  Whatever they are doing will require the water in the canal that runs through Tiffany Lakes. 

Scott, Dix, Jack, and a couple of guys from OSAG spent most of the day just bulldozing what little bit of debris remained in that little area.  They just hauled the loader buckets of stuff off into the overgrowth on the other side of the highway and dumped it there in a flat-topped pile.  Scott said they’ll eventually burn the pile over.  It was the guys from OSAG coming to help that really made me go “hmmmmm.”  So whatever it is, it will affect or is for the whole Triune. 

Grrrrrr.  I wish Scott would just come right out and tell me but I can’t just ask.  If I ask and he tells me “no” that he can’t tell me then that wouldn’t be too cool.  However, if I can scrape together some facts and then add two and two together to come up with a reasonable facsimile of four then they might tell me.  At least that’s my strategy for now. 

What’s also made me wonder is that Scott said that they’d use that area as the “skunkworks” so long as there weren’t too many problems.  If would be convenient to guard and for any extra provisions as needed however they’d have to do something about the guard walk on top of the Wall.  That means that they don’t want everyone knowing what is going on in that area.  They are also looking at a likely area near Aldea though it would require messing up a lot of trees and becoming way to obvious from the air.  There is also another possible work area between Sanctuary and Aldea off of Livingston Avenue at the Interstate I75 overpass.  The problem with building anything away from any of our settlements means that we are going to have to split our guards yet again and Dix and Matlock are pretty much opposed to doing that any further. 

Angus and Jim must know what is going on because I haven’t seen Angus this peppy since before his knee was injured.    Of course it could have been that Scott rigged up an “elevator” of sorts so that Angus could get up to the top of the Wall and work guard duty again.  The elevator is actually more like a dumbwaiter, only heavy-duty enough that it can handle about 300 pounds in weight.  Its how we had been getting supplies to the top of the Wall, all Scott did was rig it so that it was kind of like a ski lift … only instead of being a sky ride it goes up and down. 

Speaking of Angus he gave me the next couple of day’s journals from his “sightseeing tour.”   

Sightseeing Part Three 

Well I got something running but not what I would have liked. It's a suburban so it has some size and cargo room but it's in terrible shape. The clutch is shot to hell and it takes forever to warm up but it was one of the only two we found to start; the other is some kind of jap import. Jim took the car and headed to see if he could catch something to eat for tonight and I took a slower survey of the area to see what's around here. I'm still not happy about the area as something has me on edge. Scrappy hasn't shown any indication that something is up around here, but the mule gets nervous once and a while. Most of the place looks like the fire didn't get in here as the buildings are burn free.  

I see in every home I stop at that it's been stripped clean of anything of use, I only stop every once in a while as I haven't found one untouched yet and all that stop and go is useless. This is a surveying trip not a supply one but I have been picking up something. Jim was talking about our last birthday celebration and overhearing Scott saying something about the girls and not having makeup for them? He wasn't really sure about the topic as that was about the time Sissy caught one of the little ones taking a sip out of Jim's mug when he wasn't watching and he had to run for it.  

Anyhow it popped into my head as I was passing through one of the bedrooms in the last home I was in when I saw some makeup stuff on a table. I have absolutely no idea what any of this stuff is or what women do with it, but I threw a bunch of the stuff into a purse that was in the closet for the girls. I think I might keep doing it till I can fill a small backpack with it. There's no extra space for stuff with the animals, but I think one small backpack of girlie stuff will fit.  

Around mid-day I was coming out of a gas station I had gone into and saw the first shambler in a while heading my way. It wasn't a very long dead one either. Jim and I had talked it through and had decided to try to keep the gun fire to a bare minimum as it announced are presence so I reached for me club. My hand gripped the handle of a hammer where me club used to be. I'm still trying to remember I switched the club for the hammer before I left. One of the puppies had chewed the end of the shillelagh's handle and in repairing it had to cut 2 inches off it. Then it didn't feel right so I took one of Scott's 2 pound sledgehammers and cut the handle down till the whole thing was 18 inches long and felt good on the swing. The shillelagh I cleaned up and painted pink with some paint Bekah found for me and wrapped it up all nice in a gift box (with Bekah's help) and left it as a gift to Rose. The card in the box said “dating accessory.”  I noticed her and David walking hand in hand again before we left.  

So with the hammer in hand I walked out to meet the shambler and gave the hammer its first test. I like it! On my way back at the end of the day I noticed a cleared area behind one of the houses and stopped to investigate. Because the fire didn't burn through here all the tall grasses and shrubs are still going strong but there was a cleared spot in this backyard. When I got there I found a pair of antlers (don’t know from what) and a lot of hair scattered about. The animal hoofs where there as well. No other sign, but it wasn't that old as the hair would have blown away after a while. The only critter I know that eats everything is the hyena. We haven't heard any or see them but that might be the faint smell the mule and I didn't like. This means I have to do a lot more thinking. Hyenas like lions stay in a home range even when the food isn't plentiful. If it runs out completely they move but for the most part they stay put. I have to wonder if this is a different set of animals or the same ones we had up north? Have to house the animals inside from now on. 

I took pity on Jim and brought back 4 different kinds of soap and some aftershave yesterday. On his side he found some extra clothes and spent hours last night boiling water from a nearby creek and filling a tub in the house next to where we are camped. He smells much better now and said he hopes he never has to wear a kilt again. We had some bass that Jim caught and to go with it we had a few onions that he found still growing in a small garden. They were pretty small but with them and one of the potatoes we brought with us it made a stew we didn't complain about.  

Jim had a few things to say about the gators again. He told me that two six footers came over as soon as he started to do his fishing. They didn't sneak up but just swam over and came right out of the water. Jim said he was waving his arms and hollering at them as he backed up but they just tried to walk up to him. Jim said they followed him back to his car and acted like this was a regular way to do things. I wonder if the gators here have learned to come out of the water to grab zombies for food? Something that didn't click with me at first came to me when I was bitching to Jim about that shit jeep. He had said it wasn't like we had a lot to pick from. So where are all the vehicles? In this area there are not that many cars and trucks sitting around like you find in most areas. In the morning we intend to head farther west for a while and then south again. The animals have had a good time on the grasses here abouts and are ready to hit the trail again. 

We left before first light and made a slow ride to the house we saw the night before. Getting through the industrial park was a lot of back tracking with all the fencing around some of the buildings. Had a couple of shamblers within the complex that showed interest in us and I told Jim I didn't want any gun fire till we knew more about the house we were headed to. So Jim took the long handled shovel off the mule and worked on his zombie bashing technique. He was very efficient with that shovel but, with the curve of the thing it makes the swinging that he prefers a little difficult. What came to my mind was one of those ditch clearing billhooks. I think he might really like one of those.  

So when we came into sight of the house we just took a seat and started watching. The house was pretty easy to distinguish between the rest of the homes in the little development. It was maintained and had a shit load of solar panels set up in the back yards of two houses. The development itself had a iron fence going around most from what we could see from our approach. It didn't stop much as parts where knocked down and missing in some places. We could see where some of the fencing had gone, around the house of lights and the two on either side of it.  

The odd thing was there wasn't anything except the fence, nothing solid to reinforce to help with mass's pressing against it. Another thing that was obvious was that there was a lot of vehicle traffic through here. The roads are very over grown but the one that goes in front of this one is kept clear from the vehicles. Two hours after sun up we saw our first person. He came out of the middle home and climbed a ladder on the next house over. On the roof there was a spotting scope set up and he spent the next hour surveying his area. He seemed to spend more time watching in the direction of the industrial park than anywhere else.  

At that I asked Jim and Scrappy to check our back trail because if this guy was worried about something behind us I was too. By mid-day Jim had come back to report nothing on our back trail. He had found a good vantage point of the park and saw nothing except two more zombies that didn't see him. Jim and I didn't think there were more (or hoped) people as this one man was all that we had seen to that point. I still didn't like the implications of the traffic but we saddled up and made an open approach to the house.  

At the gate we still hadn't been seen and could see the man working in a garden between two of the homes. I hollered out a hello and the guy lost his hoe on the back swing when he jumped. He just stood there staring at us for a minute and then waved and said “hello" As he was walking to the gate Jim leaned over the fence to look down the side of the house, and threw himself backwards off his horse with a woof sound. He was laying there with his eyes bugged out and his teeth clenched not moving. I threw myself off the right side of the horse pulling my shotgun out as I fell. Jim's horse took off at a run and I had no idea what was going on.  

I didn’t know if this was a trap the man in front of me was going to get both barrels. Jim was trying to talk but still wasn't moving. The man was crouched down with his hands over his head yelling don't shoot. Before I could even form a question the man pointed to Jim and said “the fence is electric."  I looked at Jim and he was starting to sit up and was blinking a lot. He looked over at me and all he said was “that hurt."  The man came to the fence and removed an insulated hook by a plastic looking handle from the fence and opened the gate. He apologized about the fence and told us he was so shocked to see us that he forgot to warn us. By this time Jim's horse had wandered back to us and we were invited in. 

I swear those two men can find trouble in a convent.  Hmmm, maybe that wasn’t a good example.  More than likely they would be the cause of trouble in a convent.  Whatever.   I’m actually glad I didn’t know some of this until after the fact.  Angus and Jim are both so “larger than life” that it is easy to forget that they are just regular men and not the protagonists in a Tall Tale.  The loss of either man would leave a huge gaping wound in our family and our community.  I know one day Jim hopes to go back to his home in Australia but I want him in one piece so that he gets that chance.  He’s got a picture that he has almost worn out of a certain young woman.  I … I don’t know what to hope for him but peace would be a start. 

Angus too.  I know sometimes something gets to him.  Memories of home, maybe of those he didn’t get a chance to be with as he was off exploring the world when things got crazy.  Sometimes I feel that way too.  I wonder if Mom and Dad would still be with us if we had been with them when things went crazy.  Could we have reached them in time?  Or did things happen so quickly that there is no way that we could have brought them to our home.  I guess I’ll never know.  It will take me a long time to stop wondering however.  The fate of my brother and nephews still weighs on my mind as well.   

Steve isn’t the only one broadcasting these days.  You run up and down the dial and you can find all sorts of crazy things on.  It’s all sporadic and most of the time you don’t know what to believe.  The government is also broadcasting; some useful information like boiling water, weather predictions, and that sort of thing but also some potential disinformation like the Orphan Trains, the plans for a new US Census, and now this thing they’ve got out which is like a big database of missing persons.  

I wish I knew if the database is legitimate or not, I’d like to see if my brother is looking for me or if my nephews are on the orphan list.  But apparently, from what I heard at Market Day, you have to give out a lot of personal information – in the guise of seeing whether you are a legitimate claimant to the info or not – before they’ll ever release anything to you.  And, what really makes me leery, is that they are asking for information on neighbors and community members.  That’s too much like asking for a service rather than providing a service.  Reminds me forcefully of the past when different administrations would to ask citizens to begin informing on people with different ideological and/or political positions than what their political party and/or administration wanted propounded.  Crazy.  It’s too close to the way the Communist Party snitches used to work.  It was a total negation of the Right to Privacy and Free Speech and other standard rules of law as well.  I sure won’t help the NRSC … or The Independent Constitutionalists for that matter … start those awful “black ball lists” and “enemies lists.”   

To bring myself back on topic I guess I should note everything that we’ve been harvesting lately and then I think I’m going to toddle off to bed.   

Let’s see, looking at the report I made out for Dante’ we brought in black beauty heirloom eggplants, Thai Green heirloom eggplants, banana melons, charentais melons, honey rock melons, Jenny Lind honeydews, orange bell peppers, chiltepin hot peppers, red chili peppers, tabasco hot peppers,  German green tomatoes, box car willie tomatoes, pink brandywine tomatoes, red brandywine tomatoes, Cherokee purple tomatoes, golden girl tomatoes, Dutchman tomatoes (pink, large), purple ball tomatoes (pink), garden peach tomatoes, golden queen yellow tomatoes, great white tomatoes, green zebra tomatoes, homestead tomatoes, pink oxheart tomatoes, purple Russian tomatoes, roma tomatoes, tiffin Mennonite tomatoes, tigerella tomatoes, yellow pear tomatoes, crimson sweet watermelons, blue ribbon striped watermelons, Navajo watermelons, sweet princess watermelons, dark green zucchini summer squash, Charleston grey watermelons, tendercrop bush beans, top crop bush beans, golden zucchini summer squash, white patty pan summer squash, and a crap load of potatoes. 

When the guys asked me if I knew how to make Tobasco sauce I told them yes.  You would have thought I’d told them I could turn mud into beer or something.  I got the original recipe from a 1947 Ball Blue Book.  I hope all of those books I have survive.  It took me a lifetime to collect them, multiple lifetimes if you count the ones that I inherited from my mother, aunts, grandmothers, etc.  


36 Tabasco peppers -- or other long hot red peppers
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon horseradish
1 cup hot vinegar
1 cup water

Add water to the peppers and garlic. Cook in a medium pan until tender, then press through fine sieve. Add all other ingredients and simmer until blended. Pour into hot ball jars; seal at once. The sauce may be thinned - as used - with either vinegar or salad oil.  From: The Ball Blue Book Vol. X, 1947 

I also know how to ferment Tobasco peppers so that they eventually turn into hot sauce.  You need a half gallon of fresh Tobasco peppers and half a cup of kosher salt.  First you mash up the peppers and put them in a non-metallic container.  Then you sprinkle the salt over the top of the mash – do not stir.  Cover loosely so that the fermenting gases can escape – trust me, you don’t want to have to clean up a big exploded jar of peppers.  Don’t ask me how I come by this insight.  You leave the mashed up peppers in a cool, dark place for six months then you stir and strain through a fine mesh strainer so that you get the pulp and juice but none of the skin and seeds.  Return the seeds and skins to container with water equal to half their volume.  Stir and strain again. Put strained liquid with originally strained liquid into a clean container and again cover loosely to allow fermentation to complete. In about two weeks, it is ready.  That’s some kinda hot stuff if you can stand to eat it. 

I said I was going to go to bed but I just had to mention also that we’ve had a fairly decent potato harvest.  We have them all laid out on tarps under heavy mesh to keep varmints from getting to them.  We’ve already started processing them as quickly as we can.  Tomorrow I’m going to try and harvest a few plants of the fingerling potatoes, those will be wonderful done up in a “everything but the kitchen sink” mashed potatoes. 

Oh, and the other thing is that James and Tris brought in a cow they found that had an off-season calf.  They were wandering around in the overgrowth where they had gone hunting for quail and doves to bring back home to try and raise with the birds we already have.  The way things are going we know we are going to need to grow our own meat sooner rather than later.  The heifer looks kind of like a Brown Swiss (they are actually kind of gray) but her calf looks like it has some brahma in it.  We have plenty of brahma bulls around this area so I’m not surprised. 

What is good is that seeing as how her calf looks like a crossbreed the heifer can’t be too particular.  One of our beef heifers has lost two calves already and Austin says she might be too narrow in the hips to birth a live calf even if she did carry to term.  She is also pretty dad gum particular when it comes to the bulls getting near her.  We are going to swap out the new heifer and calf and then cull and butcher the one we are having problems with.  I know it sounds cruel but such is a farmer’s life.  Problem animals have to be taken out of the gene pool before their bad traits can be passed down to the next generation; and before they consume valuable fodder that could be better spent on other animals. 

Tomorrow they are going to do the butchering and I expect it will be a messing job.  They’ve just finished butchering those hogs.  But, the smokehouse now has something in it and the cooler is full of meat that needs to be ground and turned into sausages as well as some fresh cuts of meat that need to be preserved.  The whole beef will also help us replace all the beef jerky we’ve used and give us hamburger which we will extend even further using the TVP we still have great gobs of.    But like a lot of other things we have TVP is not a renewable resource because it is made by extruding soy bean flour through a special machine at very high pressure and temperature.  Tofu we can make and I’ll need to write the directions down over the next couple of days. 

Note to self:  whenever you want men and children to try something new, work them very hard and keep them on short rations until you are ready for them to give the new item to try.  They’ll be so hungry that they’ll eat whatever you put in front of them.  They might grump a bit but they’ll still eat it.  I’ll have to write down how I got Scott and Angus to eat eggplant the other day. They was so hungry they were eating it before they realized what it was.  I have a feeling I have some paybacks coming for that one.
 

Day 269 (Thursday) – April 26 – Food Prep Day 

Ahhhh, my aching back.  I was on my feet most of the day.  Not that I’m not usually on my feet most of the day these days but for some reason it just feels worse than it normally does.  Could have been all of the up and down while I was picking beans.   

I’ve started using a little pull behind when I’m harvesting.  Next season I might spread the rows out just a bit so that the wagon fits a little better or I’ll have Scott build me a wagon that fits better as a pull behind in my existing row width.  But it is going to have to be one that is heavy duty and yet easy to clean and light enough for me to pull when it is loaded.  Maybe Bob can fabricate a cage and Scott can fit it onto a chassis that uses those big wheels that those three-wheeled baby strollers used to be built with.   Something that won’t sink too far into the sand when it is loaded would be nice. 

Ran the cultivator a bit today.  Bob did something fun as a favor … and frankly to see if he could.  He and Conrad took a four wheeler and converted it to run on AldeaFuel (aka Hydrogen).  Then Bob changed the hitches on some of the pull behind implements that I used with the golf cart.  Wow, what a difference.  The four-wheeler has more traction and power than the golf cart and also sits higher.  Now if I can just keep James, Tris, and Samuel off of it.  They think it is “totally cool, dude.”  But I have to be careful.  The four wheelers to pop up as much as the three-wheelers used to but you can still get caught off guard it you hit a root with the discing or plow apparatus.  I did that once and like to have scared myself to death.  I won’t let the younger kids on it without helmets and not at all if I’m pulling anything. 

With the increased rain amount comes the increased weed growth which means increased cultivation runs.  Only ran it between the rows today; tomorrow I’ll hoe between the plants.  Next season I’m definitely going to have to think of a better system for keeping hoeing and cultivating down to a minimum.  Scott has saved back some roofing paper for me but I’m not real sure about putting that stuff around the plants.  I might use it to line the walks for the new herb and shrubby gardens that I’m planning.  If the paper will work … I’m trying a little bit to make sure nothing on it spoils the soil underneath … then I’ll layer either gravel or mulch over the top for a decorative effect. 

Today was kind of fun.  I got to introduce several of the Aldea and OSAG women that came over to some of my food preservation recipes.  Who knows what tomorrow brings and I really want to make sure that I pass along every bit of knowledge I have to multiple sources.  That way if I never get a chance to teach my girls there will still be someone around to do it in my place.  Scott gets really angry when I say things like that.  I think some of that is a leftover of when I was stuck in the attic with the boys.  It seems a lifetime ago but it was less than a year.  I knew at the time it would take a while for him to heal so I should be surprised.  At least I’m slowly breaking the bars on the gilded cage; but the scare with the zombies the other day didn’t help my cause any and now I have to have a watch dog (aka one of the teen boys) as a guard if I step a toe outside of the Wall.   

Once we put away breakfast we went to work on the melons.  Of course we definitely did more pickled rind and the other watermelon jams and jellies.  I also made watermelon chips for the kids which is basically where you take watermelon fruit leather and let it dry to the crispy-critter stage.  Then you break it into big pieces.  It’s practically a candy and there was enough for everyone to have a taste if they wanted it.  We also made watermelon honey which is kind of a preserve but I had forgotten how much sugar it used.  For ten pounds of watermelon flesh you need ten pounds of sugar; you also need a quarter pound of ginger and two lemons.  You cook all this down and then you process it.  I always did it in my smallest jelly jars as a little goes a long way.   

One of the goofier things we tried was frying watermelon rind because someone said they had seen it at a fair one time.  Instead of a flour batter we used one made of corn meal.  Not too shabby if I do say so but I wouldn’t want a steady diet of it.  The fresh watermelon salsa we made went over better at lunch.  I’ll have to fix more fruit based salsas.  The mixture of the sweet and the hot is just really, really good. 

We also made cantaloupe preserves.  Again, I like this but a little goes a long way for me so we canned it in the smaller jelly jars rather than in the pint size jars.  And this brings up another problem we are having.  I thought for sure we would have more jars than we could ever use but that’s not the case.  On the other hand Glenn made an unexpected find while looking for something else in some warehouse area.  I’ll have to mention that later but suffice it to say that if I can figure out how to make the lids seal on the jars he found he’ll have done us all a real service. 

While we were working on the pickled cantaloupe we made several cantaloupe pies.  They are very easy to do and helped spread out the food from the extra mouths we were hosting.  First you mix two tablespoons of flour with one cup sugar, then cream with ¼ cup butter and two eggs.  Next stir in two cups of cooked and mashed cantaloupe.  Add a pinch of salt.  Then you line a pie pan with plain pastry dough and bake until half done in moderate oven.  Cook the sugar, butter, and egg mixture until it begins to thicken.  Add one teaspoon vanilla, then pour into half-baked shell and bake in moderate oven until golden brown.  It’s a little different but I didn’t hear any complaints and it used the melons up before they spoiled.  The greater variety of ways that we can use each food, the more chances we will have to fill in holes when they occur … not if but when they occur.  For instance, not too long ago I was sick of citrus fruit but now that there isn’t many fresh oranges to be found and we have to ration them seems like all I want is an orange.  I’m sure that just as soon as I get tired of melons, the melons will run out and I’ll start craving them.  Humans are such silly creatures. 

Mr. Morris finished up another honey harvest and it is so thrilling to see all of those jars of honey in the Storehouse.  I could really wish that the Storehouse was bigger but it’s barely manageable as is.  I don’t want to turn into the rich man who thinks he needs to build more barns and silos to house his riches only to wake up the next morning to find them burned to the ground with all his wealth inside.  No, rather than take an unnecessary chance it is better to keep what we have and then spread things out between Aldea and OSAG; whatever remains can go into the trading pipeline with our satellite communities getting first dibs. 

Mr. Morris has several batches of watermelon wine going.  Phew, some days when he is racking and bottling I tell you you can get tipsy just going to close to their house.  My word!  Angus helps him on occasion but he still likes his mead best. 

Speaking of Angus, I’m a little worried about him.  He’s really slowed down since the injury to his knee.  Oh I don’t mean anything in a too awful way but … well … he seems more … hmmm … content to stay in one place maybe.  Not that he isn’t as busy as he was before; quite the contrary.  Scott has had to put off working on our school because he simply hasn’t had the time for it.  Well, from what I understand Angus has volunteered to take that over.  Scott says that Angus is probably the best man for the job since he is so close to the kids anyway … I’m thinking it’s because he understands how they think and the kind of shenanigans they could get up to and what to do to keep the shenanigans from getting dangerous.   

Angus is going to work on the down stairs rooms first as that is where the preschoolers and elementary kids are going to work.  The upstairs will be for the tweens and teens so those rooms can wait until his knee is better.  What I like is that Angus apparently has some ideas of bringing some of the outdoors in so the kids don’t feel claustrophobic and that the place will be high interest which will keep the kids engaged in learning the basics as well as all of the stuff they need to learn outside of a traditional classroom.  Its proving a challenge for us to get some of the kids to understand that the basics are the building blocks they need to really exploit all of those other skill sets they are learning outside of class time. 

Back to the food preserving.  Of course we did all of the tomato stuff that we’ve been doing all along but this time the women took their own preserves back with them.  Betty says that she still has another two or three days solid of working on the tomatoes for sauces, juice, etc. so I need to make sure and leave my girls time to come over and help.  Shorty might be brining one or two of her daughters back over but nothing is written in stone.  I think the daughter that is really into cooking is finding food preservation fascinating, especially now that she realizes it doesn’t have to be simply basics like plain canned veggies.   

For the squash we dried a bunch but I also made zucchini jam, ginger squash marmalade, canned some squash soup and then Mr. Morris got his supply and started on squash wine.  Ewww, I have to say that sounds awful but Kevin said it actually is good.  He said that he and his dad would sometimes place bets on whether they could get Yankees to give it a try, if they did they usually wound up having someone ask them for the recipe or whether they could buy a bottle (backdoor sale if you know what I mean). 

Rather than canning more green beans I decided to dry everything we could get snapped today in the big drying oven.  Scott calls it “Big Bertha,” the loony even stenciled it in one the door.  I guess these days you have to get your funny where you can find it.  All I know is that every time I see “Big Bertha” in those hideous fluorescent orange letters it makes me smile. 

We are canning some of the potatoes we’ve been harvesting but most of them we are drying in various forms – sliced, diced, and minced primarily although I did shred some and even tried “ricing” some for a kind of quick mashed potato mix.  That was a mess.  I’ll guess we’ll have to see whether it is worth the work in the long run. 

I also dried some of the okra and though it went against my personal inclinations I made some pickled okra for Mr. Morris.  Ugh, pickled okra reminds me too much of snot and slime.  Gack, it’s gagging me just thinking about it.  My Mom and Dad really like pickled okra as well.  Sorry, I prefer my okra fried until all the slime factor has been removed though I will eat well cooked okra in a gumbo.  Now that IS some good eating right there. 

Peanuts are looking to make a good crop though they aren’t anywhere near ready for harvest.  I wished we had planted more than just an acre of peanuts now.  If the corn crop doesn’t make for oil it would have been nice to have peanut oil as a backup.  What we have in storage will still last quite a bit yet now that we are piecing it out with lard, but it’s not secret how fond of redundancies I am. 

The other women headed out before dinner but that still left us some clean up to take care of.  Saen, who is staying the night here, was like a bumblebee on caffeine overload and said to just get out of her way and let her work … hey, you don’t have to ask me twice.  Glenn and crew finally rolled up mid-way through dinner.  They hadn’t expected to be so late but apparently the convoy attracted some attention that had to be dealt with and then with the roads and bridges in the shape they are now it they had to make a few more detours than they wanted. 

Boy, were they loaded for bear.  I hadn’t realized it but they must have picked up a couple of drivers from OSAG before they headed out.  The first in was a tractor trailer with a bulk container (the silly thing looks like a cylindrical tank with 2 cone shaped projections on the underside and 2-3 hatches on top).  Courtesy of all the stories I used to have to listen to from my brother the independent trucker, I knew those bulk containers were used for hauling anything from rice and grain to granular chemicals.  My brother had hauled citrus peel pellets in one of those things for about three months before the contract ran out.  The one the crew brought back was three quarter full of ammonia nitrate fertilizer.   This they apparently scavenged from the production lines of two fertilizer plants in Bone Valley, one of them in Lake Alfred.

The next tractor trailer came in with two flatbed trailers attached.  These are called "doubles."  It always bothered me to be next to one of the piggy back set ups when I was going down the interstate.  One trailer had two 25 HP propane engine farm tractors they took from a sod farm.  I overheard Glenn and Scott talking and Glenn said they probably went untouched because everyone thought they were useless for bugging out or any other work when the supply of commercially supplied propane stopped.  Bob is going to be in on converting the engines to hydrogen.  I think it is more fun to call it AldeaFuel  but the guys just kind of roll their eyes at me when I call it that.  It’s some comfy being humored by the big tough guys … not.  But what are you going to do?  I’ll take my knuckle-dragger over a metrosexual woos any day of the week. The second trailer had an assortment of 5, 10, and 15 HP propane engines they salvaged from warehouse forklifts, which they plan to likewise convert to hydrogen and then adapt them to generators and other equipment the Triune needs.

Next in was the crazy set up that Glenn himself drove.  It was one tractor trailer with three chemical tankers and two flatbeds.  You couldn’t get away with driving stuff like that here in the States but Jim called it a road train. Glenn chose to drive this one as both the nitric acid and the ammonia he was pulling are dangerous to transport.  He wasn’t exactly following the hazmat safety regulations regarding maximum size of shipment and which items can be hauled together.  Jim was wearing an NBC suit and mask they picked up from the NRSC troops that died during the big Hive herding operation.  So the “road train” was made up of two tankers of Anhydrous Ammonia, scavenged from chemical plants in the Tampa area, as well as now disused cold storage facilities near the citrus farms; two flatbed trailers with twenty bulk liquid shipping tanks (big square plastic tanks inside steel grid cages) nitric acid scavenged from the fertilizer plants and phosphate mines; two bulk containers of Hexamine (about 2000lbs, taken from a plant manufacturing resin compounds (Formica); and, one fuel tanker filled with old grease and oil from every truck stop restaurant and fast food place we could find.  That last is so that they can process the gunk … which smells like death if you must know … into bio-diesel.

The reason they were gone as long as they were was because once they found their first location, it took some time to cook up enough bio-diesel to run the trucks.  They took some of the gunk they found at a truck stop, added lye and then cooked it in an old water heater tank.  They filtered it when it had done perking or whatever the stuff does.   They used the power from a small propane forklift to jump start one of the trucks, then jumped the other trucks with the first truck.   They used the air lines on the on the trucks at the truck stop they didn’t use to re-inflate the tires on the ones that they did pick to use.  They also had to patch a couple of tires and a few they even had to switch out altogether.
 

Now here are the goodies that brought back that isn’t part of whatever the super dooper super secret secret plan … oh yeah, I’m miffed because Scott won’t even give me a hint … yet.  I’m still working on him.  I’m working on the other men too but I think I might need to ease up a bit; they’ve taken to running whenever they see me coming.  That must mean they are getting close to the breaking point. 

Anyway, they got the sleeper cab type trucks thinking that if they had to they could stay the night in the trucks.  But, they never got a chance to use them much.  Next to one of the truck stops was a warehouse complex and the guys had a couple of hours to kill because it was raining so they decided to take a look and see if there was anything worth scavenging.  Most of the warehouses were pretty much ransacked or over run with varmints of one kind or ‘nother including some rather frisky zombies. 

Back in the back corner however was a warehouse that while it had been broken into nothing had really been taken.  A couple of the cases in the place had been thrown around but they were just full of broken glass.  But, on closer inspection, every case in the place was filled with glass only in better condition than the boxes that had gotten tossed for kicks.   

Now let me tell you, as a general rule I don’t go around kissing men that aren’t my husband or related to me but I coulda kissed Glenn right then and there, though I let Saen do it for me.  They brought back jars.  Not just jars, but lids to go with the jars.  Now the catch is that I’m only thinking that I can get those jar lids to seal.  They aren’t the home-style variety of rings and lids that I would use on Ball or Mason jars.  These are one piece deals for commercial use … think pickles jars and jam products that you used to buy in the grocery store. 

They stuffed every cab with boxes of jars and lids and even packed some onto wooden flats that they tied down onto the flatbeds where ever there was room.  I thought Mr. Morris was going to kiss Glenn there for a sec too when we found out a goodly number of those jars were actually half-gallon and gallon glass jugs with lids.  From the same company warehouse they also brought back aluminum bottles (like for cosmetics and sprays), tin containers in various sizes and shapes, and plastic bottles and jars.  I’m going to help Dante’ inventory the bounty tomorrow. 

Glenn looks to be in good health though he’s obviously lost some weight.  I don’t know if that is the injury, the trip, or him missing Saen.  All I can say is that they were definitely happy to see each other and strolled off as soon as they could to spend some alone time together.  The young bucks were feeling pretty frisky and made a few cat calls trying to embarrass them.  I told them to knock it off or I’d wish a crazy Cajun woman to fall in love with them.  Dante’ laughed and told the boys he had one word for them … “Run.”  

It wasn’t long after that that we all decided to head on home.  First thing out of Scott’s mouth was, “Sissy, don’t ask me.  I promised not to say anything and you are driving me up a wall with your questions.” 

Fine.  I only like tormenting him when it’s all in good clean fun.  When it gets to where it really does bother him … not just play bothers him … I know to stop.  A man has to be able to find some peace some place and a smart woman knows that one of those places better be the home.  If it isn’t then a man will go looking for it someplace else which could lead to all sorts of unnecessary heartache for everyone involved. 

Now that I have all of this written down I’m going to shuffle off to bed.  I hope Scott follows me shortly.  I’m beginning to hate that computer already.  Now Scott feels like he has to be even more productive.  I wonder if we could jury rig a PDA so that he can just enter things as he goes and then download it at the end of the day into the computer.  That would save all of that double work with writing his notes and then writing up the work orders.  James thinks he can do it if we can just locate a PDA … or a couple of them.  Which reminds me, I think Rose had one she bought for one of her dual enrollment courses.  I wonder if she still has it?
 

Day 270 (Friday) – April 27 

Wow, what a long day.  Let me start with the jars and bottles that Glenn and his crew brought in first since that’s what I’ve been playing with the most.   

First off I think the warehouse where the men picked them all up must have been a distributor; they certainly weren’t a manufacturer.  Basically they were the middle men that would buy generic glass jars and other containers direct from a manufacturer and then re-sell them to smaller companies; likely the types of companies that bottled their own honey, preserves, ciders, etc.  Larger companies like Welch’s would have had their own contracts directly with the manufacturer thus avoiding any mark up.  The first container that I inventoried was the glass bottles.  They came in clear, amber, and cobalt blue and in enough sizes to drive me nuts trying to create a handwritten spreadsheet for inventorying them.  There were round bottles, sauce bottles, swing-topped and corked bottles, droppers, and vials.  The lids for this were standard plastic screw caps, those little eye dropper gizmos, and then some atomizers.  After I got all the glass bottles inventoried … and there are several grosses of those puppies … I moved on to the plastic versions of the of the glass bottles.  The difference in the two supplies was that there were no plastic vials but the plastic versions also came in the color emerald green; the plastic bottles also were had pumper lids that could be fitted on them for lotions and liquid soaps.  What I’ll probably do is divide the glass bottles between the Storehouse and the Clinic.  The plastic bottles will also be divided though we’ve already got about a gazillion of those little pill bottles where we scavenged the pharmacies all those months ago. 

After the glass and plastic bottles I got into the boxes containing the glass jars.  These were primarily in the same tall slender shapes you would expect to see from a commercial product rather than a traditional mason jar.  That doesn’t mean they are useless, far from it.  The largest of these jars come in 16 ounce size but they go all the way down to 4 oz. which won’t be much use to us for food preservation but they’ll be great for herbal seasonings and such.   Let’s see, besides the fact that they came in clear, amber, and cobalt blue there were several different shapes:  hexagon, oval hex, faceted, shorts, longs, candle jars with the plastic inserts, salve jars in amber and cobalt blue; there were even nine ounce bear shaped glass jars.  Most of the lids for these were the standard zinc sealing type but there were also some plastic shaker lids. 

Plastic jars were next.  These were mostly the lotion and cream type short jars and were probably sold to places that specialized in herbal preparations and organic products.  Then I worked on the tins.  There weren’t as many cake and cookie tins as I had hoped; again they looked like something primarily marketed towards the small herbal preparation type companies or the organic products type things.  Two of the neater variations on these tins were the ones that could be used for lip gloss or lip balm and the little square tins that were hinged like you used to get Sucrets cough drops in or Altoid mints.  Not sure what I will use them for but they are still neat. 

The last items were the biggest in size, took up the most room, and will probably be what becomes the hardest to find in the long haul.  There were half gallon and gallon jugs and half gallon and gallon jars.  The four different jars came with two different lids … a plastic one for something that didn’t need processing to seal and then a commercial metal lid that would seal after processing.  We got a gross of each type and Mr. Morris and Angus have already called dibs on the glass jugs that kind of look like old moonshine jugs only in clear glass.  I’d love to have a few of those jugs filled with apple cider but I guess it could be years – if ever – before I taste such a thing again.  Gives me the shivers to even let that thought in my head. 

Glenn said that they got all they could fit on their current load but since he is planning to head back out as soon as he has spent some time arranging this first batch of stuff he’ll go ahead and clear out the warehouse of what was left … assuming something or someone else hasn’t gotten to it first.  In preparation of that I need to schedule some of the kids to help clean out a couple of storage containers for the glass jars.  I’ll put the lids in a friendlier environment to keep the heat from ruining the seal but the glass jars and bottles can got anywhere.   

Dante’ was busy inventorying by weight or bulk-measure all of the stuff that Glenn’s crew brought in.  Scott took David and a couple of the young bucks from Aldea and went out Gunn Highway almost all the way to SR54 to hit up the aluminum and screening company out there.  This place also made free-standing lanais and Florida rooms pre-NRS.  David came by to tell me when they came back.  He also asked if I could make up some of my flavored ORS for them as they’d really worked up a sweat moving all of that stuff around.  Summer isn’t really here yet and the heat and humidity already are a safety factor we have to deal with and plan for. 

Apparently the manufacturing portion of the warehouse complex was trashed by one or both of the big fires.  And some of the screening was melted as well.  Surprisingly however, there was still quite a bit of stuff left to salvage.  They got enough to build two huge green houses for us here at Sanctuary and a smaller one for Aldea.  They are going to make another run tomorrow and this time a couple of the guys from OSAG are going to come, Theo, and Conrad and a couple of the young men that have become part of Mr. Choi’s group.  They’ll finish cleaning out that complex so that all the Triune members will have plenty of greenhouse space and our two satellite communities will have a decent greenhouse each as well.  If there isn’t enough glass at the warehouse we’ll simply salvage glass from local houses and have to add additional cross pieces to hold the glass in the aluminum frame. 

I’m not totally sure what in the heck Glenn wants with all of the screening but he, Scott, and Dix had their maniacal grins on.  If you can believe it I think they are going to use it for camouflage though why we need to camouflage fertilizer to that extent I’m not quite sure … yet.  The reason why I’m getting a sneaking suspicion is because Scott asked me if I could sew stuff to the screen.  I told him yeah but they’d have to be careful of storm damage.  It is getting on towards hurricane season and we need to make sure all of our building projects conform to high wind codes as much as possible. 

The other thing I heard – no secret that I guess – is they want to start producing concrete.  Our Wall is wonderful but it does have its drawbacks, one of which is stacking height given our current equipment.  With concrete we can take our building block system even higher, certainly in excess of twenty feet.  Scott was off and running with the idea of real towers and ramparts as well if they can find or build the right pouring forms.  Concrete would also be impervious to armor piercing ammunition and more impervious to blasts, both of which we’ve already had to deal with.  Concrete is also more sustainable in that we don’t have to worry about rusting.  I’ve already run into two storage containers that Bob has had to torch the latches off of because they became rusted and frozen in place.  Now as we get into a storage container and inventory it we make sure and grease the latches and doors so we don’t get locked out of our supplies. 

One of the things that strikes me as kind of funny is that the men are talking about building storm shelters but they keep mentioning something that looks awful similar to some of those white buildings on MacDill AFB.  When I casually mentioned it Glenn just winked at me and then nodded and smiled at Scott.  I swear if Scott had patted me on the head like he looked like he was about to I would have swung a mop at his head.  Machismo and chauvinism do have their uses but I swear too much of a good thing is just as bad as not enough.  So, I figured I was close on something and was a “smart girl” for figuring it out.  But what the heck are they up to?!!!  Well, I’m getting to the point I’m running out of curiosity.  Let them keep their silly little man secrets.  I know they are just egging me on at this point.  Two can play that game. 

I heard Dix say something a little … well … I’ve heard it before but have no idea who said it originally.  The more I’m putting the puzzle together the more I’m beginning to see why we need to keep this quiet.  Dix said, “Those who beat their swords into plows, plow for those who didn't.”  To me that means that they are working on Sanctuary’s defenses.   Now I know the fertilizer IS for the gardens but I think they are going to make some more boom-boom toys for the boys to play with if need be too.  Crazy times that we are living in.  If they are getting up to that kind of mischief that I’m not going to worry about it; however, if they blow something vital off I will be first in line to read them the riot act.  I told them how I felt about having that stuff so close to home months back when they first made that stuff up.  Granted it has come in handy but we’ve got enough kids here that they better keep all of that locked up tight and that is all I’m going to say on the subject.  For now. 

And speaking of crazy, I think Glenn’s humor may have finally gotten the better of him.  Along with all the stuff that he brought back was a concrete form for making yard gnomes.  No, I’m not kidding.  Saen and I are both wondering if Glenn didn’t fall on his head during that explosion that he was wounded in.  He keeps chuckling and not even Scott gets that particular joke.  He says he wants to fill up the Triune area with those yard gnomes … you know the weird little guys with the funny read caps and odd shoes.  Well, Glenn is nothing if not interesting.  I keep imagining all this little concrete gnomes all over Sanctuary holding signs that say “keep off the grass” or something equally bizarre.

Oh, and about inventorying … I could have just chewed horseshoes and spit nails.  A rat (or rat family) must have gotten into one of the storage containers … and it was the one where we had stored a lot of the plastic tubs with our fabrics in them.  Betty had gone over there to find shirt material to make Ty some summer PJs.  We lost every tub of fabric on that end of the storage container.  The rat or rats just chewed right through the plastic bins, even the heavy duty plastic bins.  On Monday we’ll go through and see if any of that is salvageable but instead of bolts of fabric we’ll have to break it down into cut lengths which makes it much less useful except for quilting and craft projects.  Oh I was just so mad!  This is just another example of taking two steps forward and one step back.  It also is a good example of why we need to hurry up and find the time to go through all of those steel storage containers.  Who knows what we are losing as each day passes.  On top of that Rilla said Rhonda found mouse droppings in two of the clothing storage containers/rooms; and we go in those regular.  They didn’t find any overt damage but it’s really hard to tell with the way things are packed in there.  I don’t want to go looking for undies one day to find all we have are some with bowling ball sized holes chewed in them or something worse like one-sided bras. 

Speaking of fabric, Kim and Daniel came by again today; I think to see Jim as much as anything.  But, apparently they are having a lot of problems with rodent infestation in the condominiums where they are living too.  Some rats, lots of mice, and more roaches than you can imagine from what she said.  They’ve taken to sleeping under mosquito netting just to make sure that a roach doesn’t crawl on them in the night.  Ick.  They are talking about having to move and they were wondering if we had a problem with them picking one of the places over in this area.  Dix called a Council after dinner and we discussed it as a group.  Tomorrow we are going to offer them a place in Sanctuary … to be honest we need the manpower and they’ve got skills we need as well.  As far as I know we don’t have a single weaver between the Triune members or the satellite communities.  Having someone that can create fabric from raw materials to a finished product would be a real feather in our cap.  They’ll kinda be on probationary status but we don’t even know if they’ll accept since they were looking for a place of their own rather than one inside the Wall.   

At that same meeting we had a long discussion about clothes and the necessity of maintaining them as much as humanly possible.  Some of the guys – including my own – are so hard on their clothes.  Scott and James also have very acidic sweat which just seems to eat at the threads of their t-shirts.  Socks are going to be a real problem for the men.  Sarah has taught herself to knit but I can’t imagine the child being able to knit every new socks as fast as they seem to go through them.  Glenn (and Saen who also stayed the night again) asked where the nearest textile factories were.  Well between Scott and I we came up Uniroyal down in Sarasota, Dowling over in Clearwater, Lawrence Schreiber in Sunrise, Trann up north in Mossy Head, and then Armen, Signoria, and Drezo down near Miami.  Likely there are smaller ones all over the state but those are the biggest that Scott remembers from his commercial banking days.  It sure would be nice to take a trip to one of those places and bring back some bulk denim or other natural fibers like cotton or silk.  Of course with the way things are I wouldn’t turn my nose up at any kind of fabric at this point but I have a hard time seeing the Triune men going around in floral print overalls made out of fabric originally designed for covering sofas.  Though, now that I’ve thought it it sure is a funny picture in my head. 

James and Tris were out on patrol today and ran across Maya and her husband Jeff.  James said Jeff wasn’t unfriendly exactly but he wasn’t friendly either.  Tris said he noticed that when he and James moved Jeff moved too to make sure they could never get within so many feet of Maya.  It wasn’t overtly obvious but the boys are pretty observant.  Tris complained that it made him feel uncomfortable but I asked him if he had ever noticed how Scott and David acted.  I figured it was just something that males did to make sure their boundaries weren’t being invaded.  James said it was more than that.  Dix overheard and then demonstrated a few stances and movements and Tris and James said that was exactly what Jeff had done which rather surprised me. 

Dix, after looking thoughtful, told the boys to stay away from Jeff … and especially Maya.  Tris looked a little mulish but James is smart enough that when Dix says something like that it isn’t for no reason.  Which basically tells me that Jeff is either military or some version thereof.  I told Scott who said Dix had already told him about it so he could reinforce to the boys to stay away.  Dix is going to try and have a pow-wow with the guy to make sure he isn’t casing our territory for nefarious purposes but otherwise his particular proclivities won’t be a problem unless Jeff makes them one.  I hope the couple aren’t going to be a problem; I really like Maya, she is a hoot. 

Betty was in charge of taking care of the potatoes today and boy was I grateful.  The inventory work took longer than I had expected because I was trying to put things away as I counted them up.  I’ve got a bit more to put away tomorrow but I did make a major dent in it today by getting everything counted.  Tomorrow Scott asked if I had time to go with them over to that warehouse area.  While the guys do the loading I’ll get nosey and look in the offices and employee lockers and that sort of thing to see if there is anything worth scavenging.   

Most of our women could do the same job except, frankly, none of them want the job.  They are content to stay in and around Sanctuary or Aldea proper, getting their daily to do list whittled down.  The more adventuresome have new babies or are pregnant or have other important duties.  Additionally I’ve got the inventory in my head of what we need the most (and what we have too much of) in case it comes down to prioritizing for space limitations. 

After dinner Angus was showing Scott and I some of his ideas for the school house.  Oh my.  I really hope he can do this.  It’s all natural woods and textures mixed in with the modern.  He’s got a list of stuff that he needs and is looking for to start work on a couple of the projects.  Some I know we have in storage already if I can just find it.  But I duplicated his list into my handy-dandy notebook that I carry with my like religion and both Scott and I will keep our eyes out while we are doing stuff. 

He gave me the next couple of days of his “sightseeing journal” at the same time.  I swear it’s a wonder I have any hair left.   

Sightseeing 4 

Well the man’s name is Tom Harois. I hope I spelled that right.  He's not a very impressive looking man to be out here on his own. He has some height at 6 foot but the man only weighs in at 160 pounds by the look of him. I'll write down what of his story he has told us in a bit. The problem tom has right now is an infection in his right eye that’s really bad. He's been wearing an eye patch to try to keep from blinking as that irritates the eye a lot.  

He told Jim and I that during a confrontation with some wandering punks a bullet smashed into a brick wall next to his face and some brick dust got in the eye. He tried to flush it out but he knows he didn't get it all and for over a week he's been trying to flush it out to no avail. I'm not a squeamish guy but that eye is enough to kill my appetite. It's leaking and pus-sing and swollen and close to red. Jim suggested getting Ski to make a house call but I reminded him about all the large waddling women in the compound.  

Then I asked him what he thought Sissy might have to say to him if them women decided to all drop them Little's at the same time with Ski gone.  Well I tell you the man turned a little pale and said she'd probably make him change diapers for a month. So we compromised and talked Tom into making a run over to Sanctuary to get that eye looked at. He didn't really have an option as that eye needs some work and fast.  

We radioed and told base what was up and to expect Tom in his red pickup to show up in two days. It's hard to think that the distance we traveled can be made in a straight line with a vehicle in just two days. Turns out Tom’s not alone here but holed up with his brother in law John Teasdale. Tom told us that before the fire it was him, his wife and brother in law and the neighbor couple next door. The fire evidently swept through here at night and missed the place by less than a half mile. Tom’s wife and the neighbors disappeared two days after the fire when they were out scouting the area.  

Tom and his brother in law found a place down the road with blood covering a large area but no bodies, the guns they had with them where there but not a shot had been fired. They never found out what happened. After a while I asked about the fence and the lack of reinforcement and Tom told Jim and I a pretty odd story about the zombies in this area.  

Turns out they never had any hoards here, in fact they never seemed to have to deal with more than 20 or 30 at any given time. Tom’s brother in law is of the opinion that the terrain somehow funnels them around this area. The way the roads are Tom told us it's kept them hidden from most of the raiders as well.  

The electric part of the fence is of interest to me and probably to some back at Sanctuary as well. According to Tom when a zombie hits the fence and gets a jolt it becomes disorientated and seems to forget what it was doing and often times wonders off. I find this interesting, I seem to remember Sissy saying something about the zombies during electrical storms. Jim asked Tom about the traffic that seems to pass here and we were told about a large compound south in a place called Bele Grade. He said they stop here on their northern runs and trade supplies for a safe stop over. He warned us to stay out of their area as they don't tolerate trespassers and that even most of the raiders avoid the area. Tom went out when his brother in law got back to let him know there was company and introductions where made. John was excited to hear that there might be hope for Tom’s eye 

Here I sit having coffee as Jim helps Tom and John load the pickup for Tom’s run toSsanctuary. John spent the morning catching me up on the news of the area, and there's news important enough to write down. It seems the hyenas I was wondering about are a local pack not the ones we dealt with. John said he doesn't know their full numbers but that at least 12 of them have been spotted at one time.  

I was also informed that our favorite government goons have been doing something down here right after the fire. John said they heard choppers on the second night after the fire had gone past and that it had sounded as if they landed in the industrial park. Then 30 minutes latter they left. Tom had told John that he had seen (from his roof top spotting scope) men carrying boxes into one of the buildings that morning.  

John and Tom had previous experience with the black uniformed stormtroopers before things went to hell so they had no desire to renew relations and stayed as out of sight as they could. They started to write down their observations of the activity they observed and it appeared they were making surveys and taking samples of everything from the soil to the occasional walking dead. According to John the group got weekly visits from a chopper that dropped off things and took other things away. Then they stopped and the guys have seen nothing from the group for over a week now.  

John and Tom both say the last chopper didn't take any passengers and they never saw any ground vehicles coming or going from that area. As far as they know the groups just hold up in there. With Tom heading out and John working on their other truck I think Jim and I might take a closer look and see if we can find anything more on what they’re doing down here. 

Spent the day floating in the pool. I offered to help John work on his truck but he's just doing maintenance on it and said he didn't need the help. Jim was enjoying the pool for a bit but after he was done swimming the skeeters wouldn't let him just relax so he got out. They nibble on me from time to time but not as much as Jim.  

He doesn't take a swig of my magic skeeter repellent every day like I do. So Jim's out walking around the back fields looking for the dog. Scrappy hasn't been seen since yesterday and it makes Jim nervous. Me I figure he's just out looking for ladies, I figure he's smart enough to stay away from the hyenas so I'll leave the worrying to Jim.  

I been thinking about the goons over at the industrial complex and how best to check it out. There seems to be some very heavy darkness on the horizon moving this way and I'm thinking rain. The way I'm thinking is that if we get a good storm it might be the best time to head over and have a look. It covers any noise on our part and makes it harder for them to see us. Jim doesn't like running around in the bad storms, especially if there's lightning but I told him, if the gods aim a lightning bolt at him it won’t matter if he's outside or under the bed.  

I had to get out of the water around lunch time before my wrinkly parts started pruning. As I was adjusting me kilt there was a gun shot from the direction Jim had headed. I ran up the ladder to the roof with my Mauser and started scanning the area with the spotting scope and found Jim just as John got up there with me. There were small bushes between Jim and us so I didn't know what he was up to at first. There wasn't any danger around that I could see and Jim was just bent over and wiggling around behind one of the bushes.  

I was about to climb down and run over when he flew backwards and landed on his rump. Then I saw him stand up and start running back our way dragging a small deer. Out of the bushes running after Jim was a DRAGON! 

 OK, so it was a gator. But it was a big one, 10 to 12 feet long. John wasn't looking through the scope like I was and he said " that’s a big one " John was taking aim with his hunting rifle when I told him to stand down. The gator was slowing down and Jim was picking up speed. Turned out Jim spotted the little Florida deer heading to the little pond to get a drink and took the shot. Then as soon as he grabbed it the gator grabbed the other end. Jim's little wiggling behind the bushes was Jim hitting and poking it with the butt of his rifle. Jim told me he was in a dark mood as it was looking for the dumb dog and being eaten by the bugs here abouts and then when the - his words " poor excuse for a croc " grabbed his meat he lost it. 

If those two men decide to take off again until I’m ready I’m thinking of tying one of those collars they used on those “invisible” dog fences on each of them.  I swear they are purely trouble.  They act like they are Teflon and trouble will just slide right off.  Scare me to death some times.  And the kids want to grow up and be just like them.  Come back in a decade or so and people are going to find I’m balled as a cue ball from everyone’s shenanigans. 

I’d love to go to bed right now but I’ve got guard duty.  Hopefully I won’t be so tired in the morning that I have to beg off going with Scott to the aluminum place.
 

Day 271 (Saturday) – April 28 

I’m worried about Iggy.  It’s been days since we heard Baron had run off and he would start looking for him.  I feel so bad for the guy.  He has such a good heart and was trying to do the right thing for Baron; and trying to pay back the kick in the butt he got when he was a kid that helped turn him around.  Jim mentioned that he’d be willing to go look for Iggy but it would be like trying to find a needle in a haystack.  Even if we knew what his exact location was at the time of his radio message, there is no way to tell where he is now.  He could literally be miles for his last known location.  I’ll keep Iggy and Baron in my prayers until I know one way or the other. 

I was certainly tired when I crawled out of bed this morning but it could have been worse.  Because the location was relatively close and had already been looked over and worked on we didn’t leave at first light but waited for the others to show up and then we convoyed over.  Somebody from OSAG must have found one of those lumber flatbed tractor trailer rigs ‘cause that’s what they were driving.  This thing was one of those old ones that had the manual crane and chain pulleys built into the side and man that thing came in handy. 

Bob came with us this time and he spent part of the day pawing through the tool sheds to see if there was anything helpful in them and found things like blades and belts, tin snips the size of bolt cutters, etc.  While he was doing that, and the other guys were loading the supplies they came for, I took Scrappy the Wonder Dog (Angus insisted I bring him) and did a little exploring.  Scott gave me definitive limits and told me, “I better not have to look hard to find you.”  Grouchy.  It’s not my fault I had to work a late guard duty last night. 

I hit the office area and it was pretty well ransacked but there were the usual overlooked items like pens, paper clips, paper, scissors, and staples.  I also found some write on-wipe off markers and a one of those boards that will be handy while I’m trying to inventory in the food Storehouse.  There were a couple of metal supply closets that I also marked for salvage.  They’ll make good cabinets for the school house.  I also found a empty spiral spines for my binding machine.  I’m glad as I was running low.  I’m trying to make all of the girls a giant how-to book … Post Apocalyptic Home Economics or something trite and silly sounding like that.   

I found one of the treasures of the day on the office manager’s desk.  It was a Brother brand electronic typewriter and there must have been two cases of ribbons for it as well.  Whooopppiiiieeee!  I miss my laptop but we are running low on toner so I switched to handwriting my journal months ago.  But I can’t possibly handwrite the all of the books I want to make for the girls.  I can add handwritten notes but the typewriter will be so much better.  And then once I get a whole section made I can take it to our big copier that we swiped from DT Publishing and run off the copies that I need.  We try and limit our copying because it took so much juice to run the big machine but now that we have those propane generators we won’t have to be quite so skimpy on things.   

Scott didn’t think the typewriter would work and didn’t want to bother bringing it back.  Did I mention that he was in a foul mood?  It was kind of ucky but I cleaned it up and James tinkered with it a bit and sure enough it works just fine.   

There wasn’t any food to be found, not even powdered coffee creamer so I figured someone had already been though the place.  Found a couple rolls of commercial grade toilet paper – aka sandpaper – that were left behind.  I suppose we could have taken the office furniture but the seat cushions were pretty moldy and we’ve got just about all we could use for now.  When the younger kids start needing places of their own we’ll have to get more rustic and make stuff.    

You would think after all of the salvaging and scavenging that I’ve done I would be past having people’s personal items affect me but the pictures and stuff on people’s desks and their bulletin boards kind of got to me.  I left and went to the employee lockers, though there weren’t really that many, and scrabbled through them for a bit and only turning up a couple of men’s belts that could come in handy. 

After the office and locker room Scrappy and I went outside to tell Scott that we didn’t turn up anything but he was busy.  After standing there for a couple of minutes waiting for him to stop long enough so that I could tell him I was going to go one more warehouse over I finally went up to him and – gasp – interrupted him.  Did I mention that Scott was cranky?  He snarled, “Fine, just for God’s Sake stay out of trouble.”  Frankly it’s his fault.  He jinxed me. 

I went to the next warehouse over.  Immediately going in I noticed Eau d’ Wet Dog, it’s unmistakable.  Scrappy went a little crazy sniffing and smelling all around but wasn’t in “danger mode” so I remained on guard but decided to look around any way.   

The office was in the same shape as the other one had been; ransacked primarily for edibles but small office supplies still available.  What they did have a lot of was duct tape so I started piling it into the bags I was carrying over my shoulder.  Then Scrappy sat at my heels and gave a soft “whoof.”  This usually means, “Hey, I found something interesting.  Wanna come look at it with me?” 

I followed him two doors down but there wasn’t a lot of light in the cubicle space.  I had to get down on my hands and knees to see what he kept crawling under a desk and then back out wanting me to see.  It was pretty rank at that point.  I found out about a half-second later when my hand … my ungloved hand … came down on something furry and gooshy.  Seeing gross stuff doesn’t bother me too much.  Smelling gross stuff doesn’t bother me near as much as it used to, I’ve gotten used to it.  But touching gross stuff gives me the instantaneous need to hurl.  It’s the texture thing; I was real bad about it as a kid.  I had a real hard time learning to touch raw meat when I started cooking, especially ground beef that I had to mix with my hands. 

I jumped back, banging my head on the desk but I caught myself before I tossed my cookies.  The last thing I wanted to do was look under that desk to see what I had touched but Scrappy, dang him, wouldn’t leave me alone.  Then I heard it … a teeny weeny whine.  I knew that sound.  Anyone that has ever heard it knows that sound.  Its “puppy in distress” whine.  That sunk it, I had to look now. 

I put on a head lamp out of my pack and turned it on low.  Of course Scrappy was in the way but once I finally made him move I nearly hurled again.  A mother dog must have been mauled by something and crawled in here and gave birth.  Had to have survived a little while after the birth because the puppies were small – very, very small – but were at least a ten days old because their eyes were open.  The mother had probably starved to death, too injured to leave the haven she had found for the pups, and the three puppies I saw were in danger of it.   

Scrappy looked at me like, “Well, you’re the human.  What do we do now?” 

I found one of those cardboard file boxes through in a sweater than was hanging on the back of an office chair.  What I had thought was three puppies was actually only one.  The other two pups must have died recently and with their eyes open.  It was heart breaking.  I picked up the last little puppy.  I was fairly certain she was a beagle and Sarah and Samuel have confirmed that ad nauseum. 

I had just turned off my head lamp and was sitting in the cubicle trying to figure out how I was going to talk Scott into another dog when he had balked at a typewriter when I heard the men. 

“Oh f***!  I thought you said a woman came in here you idiot,” groused scary dude #1. 

“F*** you!  I did see a woman come in here,” returned scary dude #2. 

“Ease up Cal.  I saw the woman too.  She came in here but must have gone out the back while we were trying to get passed those men,” commented scary dude #3. 

Cal must have been scary dude #1.  “Yeah, Abe well F*** you too.  It’s easy for you not to get all worked up, you got a woman this week.  And damn you for not sharing too,” replied the guy they had called Cal. 

“You’d have a woman too if you’d take a bath every once in a while and not knock them around so much,” commented the not-worked-up Abe. 

“Great, just great,” I thought.  I mean come on, why do guys like this seem to proliferate like cockroaches?  Then scary dude #2, the one I never heard the name of asked, “Dude, you think the zombies we saw got her?” 

Zombies?!  Well geez, throw a little plagues of Egypt on there to make it even more interesting.  I should have kept my thoughts less sarcastic because sure enough from the back of the warehouse I hear some banging around, the kind of loose limbed, clumsy banging around into things sound when you’ve got shamblers around. 

“S*** man, here they come.  The mujer is probably dead, and if she ain’t I ain’t risking my ass for any of her tail.  Let’s get outta here.” 

After I was sure the loser’s club had left I looked at the puppy and thought at her, “Well, weren’t they the gentlemen?” 

I carefully set the puppy down and got up on my haunches and the balls of my feet.  I unsnapped my machete.  I didn’t know how many zombies there were.  Sounds in a warehouse can be deceptive.  I had my pistol but I didn’t want to draw any more attention to myself than I had to in case there was more than one. 

From outside and the direction that the men had gone I heard gunfire.  So did the zombies.  Lovely.  I was worried about the men but my immediate attention was on the infected creatures that were now heading my way trying to get at whatever caused the sound. 

I got lucky and these shamblers were pretty wasted.  They looked like parts of them had been toasted at some point, possibly remnants of the most recent fire.  We still find them that way now and then.  James, who seems to thrive on grossing me out, calls them burnt marshmallow zombies – black and crispy on the outside, gooey on the inside.  Ew!  Teenage boys, I’ll never understand them. 

There were three of them, two too many for my peace of mind.  I decided to avoid rather than confront.  I stayed down and quiet hoping that I would be ignored if not totally missed.  I swear on some days if it wasn’t for bad luck I’d have no luck at all. 

The puppy picked that moment to start whining presumably because she could no longer see me.  I didn’t blame the puppy, it wasn’t her fault.  She’s just a baby and a baby animal at that.  That’d be like blaming the wind for blowing. 

The noise she made wasn’t much but in the warehouse it sounded loud … or at least loud enough to get the three crispy critters headed my way at a good clip.  Well, what choice did I have? 

Right as the first one came abreast of my cubicle I sprang up and out and cut it in two while I was trying to find a bigger space to move around in.  No way did I want to get stuck in one of those small work spaces with two hungry zombies. 

Stumbling backwards and up the aisle heading towards the front where there was more light, zombie number two started knocking down cubicle walls.  Shortest point between two points is a straight line and that is about the only logic that a zombie still has in its pus-filled brain. 

The third zombie was coming straight at me from where two aisles intersected.  It was a race to see which one would get to me first.  Hey, of course I turned and ran.  Two steps into my “run” it hit an obstacle that turned out to be “Cal.”  Automatic reaction … really … I did not hold a grudge over what he had said … at least no could ever prove it.   

The muscles in my legs are pretty good for an “old chick.”  Bending up and down in the garden has made them pretty spring-loaded.  Well, my knee pistoned right into his manly parts causing him to double over but not let go of me.  I drove my thumb nail up under one of his finger nails which made him let go with one hand.  I’ll say this for the guy, he had endurance.  But no one can handle a good swift knock in their temple with a weighted machete handle without going blurry.  Finally I gained my release just in time for Call to get his comeuppance.   

But like I said, endurance.  He got a little chewed on but screamed and got loose and ran away leaving me still stuck with two zombies.  What was worse Cal the Donkey’s Behind had closed the door into the warehouse and it was one of those lever doors.  He’d jammed it with something and I didn’t have the time to figure out how to un-jam it.  Well crap. 

I turned and bolted for another door I spied.  Problem was zombie number two was lively enough that he broke out across and intersected with my beeline.  

I’ve gotten pretty good with my machete.  I wonder how I would do with a scimitar.  Basically that is what I used the machete as and decapitated it.  Two relatively down if not completely sanitized. 

I’m hauling butt towards freedom when the door is jerked open.  My first thought was the other bad guys.  My second thought was, “Oh crap, I’m in serious trouble now.”  Mr. Scott Gumpy-Pants had arrived and was not pleased with the view. 

Scott and I had never taken that trip to Spain like we’d always wanted to.  I’m beginning to doubt we ever will.  He always wanted to see the crazy people running with the bulls in Pamploma.  At that moment however I’m fairly certain I knew exactly how those people must have felt when faced with a maddened bull.  All he needed was steam coming out of his nose to look like that bull in those old Bugs Bunny cartoons. 

“I thought,” and he grabbed my arm.  “I told you,” and jerked me behind him.  “to stay,” at which point he hefted a big sixteen pound sledge hammer.  “out of trouble!” he snarled as he aimed at and hit the skull of zombie number three. 

Remember the comedian Gallagher?  Remember when he would take a sledge hammer to a watermelon?  Same effect.  Only I didn’t have any plastic to protect me from the splash zone.  Yuck. 

For some reason the head of zombie number two came rolling our direction and really hacked Scott off that much more.  “Arrrrrr!” and Scott booted it into the goal like he did during his soccer days.  The goal in this case was a small dumpster in the corner of the warehouse. 

My mouth sometimes runs away from me, especially when I’m flying high on adrenaline.  “Were you channeling Pele or Renaldo just then?” 

I knew I had blown any chance of getting off Scott free as soon as the first syllable passed my lips.  Unfortunately my wayward brain chose that moment to fritz and all I could do was giggle at the incredulous look on Scott’s face.  He really did look like the bull in the Bugs Bunny cartoons.   

About that moment a lot of the other guys from the crew come running in take one look at Scott’s face and took two giant steps backwards.  When they saw I was giggling that took another step backwards.  They were trying to get out of the blast zone. 

I kept giggling, even after the first zombie made its presence known by dragging itself out into the open.  “Ooops.” 

Scott walked over and finished it off with the sledge hammer, turned around and looked at me and asks in a deadly calm voice, “Any more?” 

“Ummmm, not yet but some dude got a little chewed up and ran off that general direction,” I snickered trying really hard to get my giggles under control. 

Bob shakes his head and mutters, “Mein gott, sie ist eine verrückte Frau” before taking a couple of guys to deliver some mercy to Cal. 

“Anything else?” 

“Well, I found a puppy and I want to bring her home.”  I figured I might as well heap coals on the fire and get it over with. 

Scott approached me very deliberately, looked me in the eye, and then whoa momma.  He snatched me up and gave me a kiss so thorough that my toes are still curled.  Then in a very quiet, hanging onto sanity by a thread voice Scott said, “Get the damn dog, walk to the truck, get in the cab, do NOT move from there.  Do I make myself clear?” 

So I got the dog and got in the truck.  I figured I’d pushed my luck as far as it could be pushed.  Besides I hadn’t found anything really interesting except for the typewriter and the puppy anyway. 

Scott did calm down by the time we left.  He even got over his grouchiness.  I’ll say this for the man, he’s temper may be volcanic but he’s never used it against me or the kids and he gets over himself real fast.  Before we left he even walked with me around some of the other warehouses and out of earshot of the other guys apologized for his earlier bad mood.  Not for sticking me in the truck but for his general crankiness in the early part of the day.  And who am I to hold a grudge?  It’s not like he hasn’t had to put up with my monthly mood swings for over twenty years. 

The only thing that we might come back to that complex for was to get starts of the large bamboo plants that were in the landscaping around there.  Mr. Choi’s translator, a young Korean guy, said that bamboo can make an impenetrable hedge if it is planted and nurtured properly.  Most bamboo species also grows fairly quickly.  I’d like to give that a try and bamboo shoots also make for good eating … I think anyway.  I’ve seen them in cans before.  I’ll have to ask Saen next time I see her; she and Glenn went home to Aldea earlier in the day. 

The rest of my day was fairly ordinary until I was getting ready for dinner.  Scott had come home and all the kids were outside or off doing chores.  You know that old cliché about make up sex?  Well, it’s true.  I wouldn’t want to field test it often but there is definitely a certain spice to it that you don’t … OK, too much information.  Besides, right as we were basking in the afterglow as they say, Johnny, Bubby, Sissy, Al bust in to tell us something.  I still don’t remember what.   

Do you know that the first test for the speed of sound came about by measuring how fast parents can move to avoid being caught by their kids in the middle of you know what?  All Scott and I could do was laugh and be thankful that were weren’t having to explain the facts of life quite so early to those four little marauders.   

Dinner was rabbit stew with potato bread.  Thank you Betty!  Any meal I don’t have to cook is a delicious meal. 

I had clean up duty while Scott reported on our salvaging trip.  I don’t know exactly what he said but all the guys over there were rolling with laughter.  Humph!  Well, I guess he was getting a little of his own back.  Like I said, I don’t mind, he’s had to put up with me enough. 

After dinner and reports we all peeled off to go home and try and get out of the heat.  The fans help a little but spritzing with an atomizer while sitting near the fan helps even more.  The kids are now all asleep and so is Scott.  I’m off to bed.  Hopefully tomorrow will be a little more restful than today has been.
 

Day 272 (Sunday) – April 29 – Rest Day 

First, got word that Iggy found Baron and they are both as well as can be expected.  I’ll cover this in a bit.  Second, Glenn is certifiable … at least after he’s knocked back a few.  I’ll cover that later as well once I can stop laughing long enough to catch my breath.  Thirdly, good brown gravy how did I forget how much trouble Pup was in the beginning?! 

My little beagle puppy is just something else.  Even Pup finally gave up and looked at me in the middle of the night and in doggie told me, “Do something with this kid or I’m gonna go crazy!”  I finally did something I know I’m going to regret.  I let her on the bed so that I could get some sleep.  Of course sleep was relative.  She is still so young she takes regular bottle feeding.   

Speaking of feeding, I did a bad thing giving the puppy goat’s milk.  She’s too young but Austin admitted that I hadn’t had much choice at that point.  He mixed some stuff up that was basically puppy formula.  He took a cup of raw cow’s milk (cream not yet strained out) and added a teaspoon of vegetable oil.  To that he added a beaten egg yolk (no white, just the yellow yolk) and then a pinch of salt and a drop of infant liquid vitamins.  After mixing completely I can warm this in a bowl of warm water until it is body temperature.  He said that I should only have to feed her four times a day if she has indeed reached the ten day mark but to let her eat her fill unless I see she is getting so fat she can’t get around on her little puppy legs. 

The poor little baby also cried every time I tried to put her down and go get something done so I made a little puppy sling and carried her around with me.  Scott rolled his eyes when he saw it.  Oh, and I’ve named her Wiggles because that seems to be what she does constantly.   

Pup was all up under me today.  Apparently Wiggles should only be where Pup wants her to be.  I knew that Pup was a little depressed because Mischief’s pups didn’t need her near as much now that they are running with the bigger dogs.  Hopefully Wiggles will give Pup a focus.  I finally wound up putting Wiggles back in the box though she wasn’t the least happy about it until Pup jumped in the box with Wiggles then they both settled down for a nap.  Austin said that Wiggles won’t really start moving around independently for another week and it will be another two or three before she is ready for a small amount of “play time.”  Until Wiggles is about five weeks old Austin wants me to keep the kids away from her.  That’s not going to be easy but I’m already getting attached to the little pudding.  Austin did warn me however that she was awful young to have lost her mother and that orphaned puppies can be prone to a kind of doggie “crib death.”  I guess I’ll just need to do my best and pray over the rest.   

Speaking of puppies, mid-morning Iggy was able to call in and say he had found Baron … there is a short or something in his transmitter.   

B is alive and well, though not particularly happy at the moment. I caught up to him a few hours before dawn the next day. How he managed to live that long I will never figure out... Angels truly do look after fools and children and B is some of both. I snuck up on the boy as he was bending down to drink some unfiltered water out of the murkiest bit of swamp I have seen in a bit. He must have been thirsty, because that brown liquid was pretty daggone disgusting... silty enough he didna notice the Alligator that was floating towards him till I pointed it out. I couldn't say what startled him more, me popping up behind him, or the way the gator seemed very disappointed when he scrambled away from the water's edge.

We had a very long talk about his disappearing act, a long talk in which I ate some of Mother Hen's nicely packed 'lunches' in front of him while he salivated, and explained in no uncertain terms that this was likely the last time I would bother looking for him. We started west again, and soon came across a small band of tinkers and repairmen. One of them said she knew the folks in sanctuary, lived with them awhile back, so I left a parcel with her, in return for treating the common bumps, cuts and bruises that come up on her friends. B was initially just watching me work, but I kindly explained to him that those what don't help, don't eat. Soon he was washing sores on feet and helping me clean infected blisters, though his bedside manner needs work. Gagging visibly in front of a patient is poor form. Ironic, you would have thought that would have made him lose his appetite... regardless, some writing is in the mail for you, Mother Hen.
 

I’m definitely happy to hear they are both OK but to be honest more so for Iggy’s sake than Baron’s.  It is interesting that Iggy, as soft hearted as he is about kids, also has the strength of will to discipline them.  Baron definitely needs to have his will broken and it’s looking more and more like Iggy is the one for the job. 

And that bit leads me to other disciplinary issues.  Between Sanctuary and Aldea we have a bunch of kids.  Both locations are doing what they can to provide structure for them but naughtiness still occurs.  Nothing major now that we have the Baron – Fy – Padric thing worked out but we need to make sure they have constructive stuff to do as well as just giving them time to run wild. 

I thought we had a fair balance but apparently adding all of the Cheval Dozen has thrown things off a little bit.  Even Angus is noticing and he’s one that normally encourages the little monkeys to swing from the trees.   Some of the problems came to a head early in the day.  After breakfast we had a mini riot when some of the kids started complaining that other of the kids weren’t helping enough with the chores.  There were complaints of favoritism and stuff like that.  A couple of the Cheval boys got into a fight with each other and like poison it just spread until all the kids … mine included … were bickering with one another and generally having a poor attitude.   Then the fight nearly knocked over one of the bee hives.  You can imagine Mr. Morris’ reaction to that. 

All of the kids lost the rest of their free time for the next two days and Mr. Morris and Angus took them and they had to muck out the barn and the chicken coops, clean out the rabbit hutches, rake the hog pens, etc.  The two boys who were actually fighting got the worst jobs and lost all of their free time for an entire week.  While the kids were doing that, interested adults congregated at our house for drinks of choice and some pool time and to discuss what we were doing wrong, what we were doing right, and how we could improve things even more. 

The kids aren’t slave labor and they aren’t miniature adults.  We can’t treat them as either.  Not only would it be wrong, it would be counterproductive in the long run.  On the other hand they can’t just run wild with no responsibilities; we can’t afford the luxury and they need to learn to exhibit self-discipline. 

We already have them spending time on academics a couple hours a day four days a week.  Most of the kids even enjoy this and try and sneak back to their books during the day when no one is looking.  Amazing how much kids want to learn when they are allowed to progress at their own rate and not having stuff crammed down their throat.  All of the kids also have chores they have to do to help out around the compound.  That’s not just busy work either.  It’s absolutely necessary work … gardening, cooking, guard or patrol duty for the older kids, helping with the animals, housekeeping, wood gathering, etc.   

Glenn, who had stopped by again to talk some things over with Scott et al, mentioned possibly adding some new subjects to their school work.  We need to pass on knowledge … not just survival stuff but the technical and strategic stuff as well.  That got into a discussion of what subjects would we teach and how it wasn’t necessarily the most efficient way to deliver that type of knowledge and how we didn’t want the kids stuck inside “doing school” all day long.  What the discussion boiled down to is that we are going to set up apprenticeships; or a version apprenticeships.   

We are already doing that to a limited extent but we are going to expand it so that the kids, in addition to their academic work, will have three or four hours a day minimum studying a technical skill under an adult.   

Rose and Melody are already training under Waleksi.  This will continue but we’ll rotate kids in and out of there so that they can learn basic first aid skills and basic lifesaving techniques like CPR.  These days you never know when you’ll be on your own or need to help in a catastrophic event. 

James is studying under Dix.  His marksmanship is exceptional.  He’s also a heck of a chess player so he’s learning strategy.  Scott is teaching him battle fortifications and how to use them to their fullest advantage.  In other words, he’s being groomed to be a future community leader.  Personally what I think they are missing is some conflict resolution training but he’s a teenager so I’m not sure how much that would stick right now anyway.  He was also learning a bit of tracking from Angus but that is on hold until Angus can get around better on his knee though he’s still managing to teach James to do a few things like navigate by the stars. 

My Sarah and Dix’s son Samuel are learning all about animal husbandry.  This includes the less “fun” parts like culling flocks and herds and butchering and stuff like that.  I’m surprised that Sarah has done well with that part of it.  I guess Mr. Morris’ matter of fact way of handling it is working with her.  He approaches it as a way to maintain the health of the animal community as a whole and also emphasizes that the end game is to provide sustenance for our community.  Austin also gives them lessons here and there on vet medicine but more of that needs doing. 

Bekah, as well as Reba’s eighteen year old daughter Claire, are training in communication.  Both girls have a real talent for it.  At some point we may ask if the other Scott (the communication specialist from OSAG) will give some lessons on the actual inner workings of the radios and other communication devices; might even be able to talk Steve into giving the girls a tour of his radio station. 

All of the girls get daily doses of basic household skills.  The boys get the basics as well like water management, operating and maintaining the farm equipment, and basic hunting skills.  But there are other things that we aren’t doing yet. 

Take Bob for instance.  Combining his skills with Scott’s has made things a lot more productive around here.   Losing either man’s skill set would be a very heavy blow, possibly crippling to the plans we currently have in place.  So we need to build in redundancies.  One of the Cheval boys … kid’s name is Charlie … is ten years of age but a good sized boy despite that.  He loves to hang around and watch Bob when he is working.  We figure if he is assigned to helping Bob as his apprentice that it will take some of the crap workload off of Bob … cleaning and putting tools away, cleaning up the machine shop, fetching and carrying, etc. … then we score double point.  Bob gets some help, Charlie starts to learn the basics from the ground up, and eventually he can switch from apprentice to journeyman and begin to do small tasks; and once Bob is satisfied with his progress handle more and more independent projects, though still under Bob’s supervision. 

Bubby is also fascination by the machine shop but five years old is a little young for anything too serious.  Bubby is also a bit of a flibberty-gibbet.  Bob still offered to let him be a mini-apprentice but we’ll have to see how that goes. 

Johnnie is always up in under Scott which is a good thing because since he was old enough to begin to manipulate items he has been into taking things apart and putting them back together, learning how to get around locks, and just in general getting into stuff.  Scott has more patience for those two boys than I do.  I love them both but I can’t seem to find stuff to keep them busy enough to stay out of trouble.  I’m the person they show off for, not the person that is the best at drawing them in line. 

That still leaves all sorts of other things that need to be taught.  We are going to try something a little different.  Fy is going to apprentice under Glenn.  I know, I know … not what you would call traditional “women’s work” but we were breaking all those molds pre-NRS anyway.  Frankly I wouldn’t mind doing some of that stuff but my plate is full and I don’t have the training.  Fy seems to “get” what Glenn is talking about when he is thinking out loud to Saen.  She won’t actually be doing any of that kind of work right now but she is going to help him create “how to” manuals so the information doesn’t just blow away in the wind.  If she sticks with it she’ll be kind of a generalized engineer that could oversee major projects or the other engineers that we need like chemical, electrical, etc.  We don’t want hyper-specialization but we do need to have more focused training than we currently are providing to the kids. 

Scott has been trying to figure out what to do about Padric.  The boy sometimes acts like his is afraid of his own shadow.  He needs something to build his self-confidence up.  Scott has noticed he enjoys drawing and likes looking at the building plans tacked up on the bulletin board in Scott’s workshop.  Scott is thinking about teaching him a bit of drafting.  Padric is good with numbers so that’s a plus. 

Some of the other areas we need to work on that were brought up in the meeting included the glass works that we have planned.  Consensus is making our own jars, and glass panes, is totally possible with the right supplies and equipment.  We sure as heck have the sand for it.  Then of course there is the boom-boom toys the boys make.  I don’t want the littles involved in that but I guess there is nothing wrong with some of the older teens or younger men getting in on it … J. Paul and Clay Jr. certainly seem to enjoy it if their grins are any indication.  Eric Timmons, the fourteen year old that lives at Aldea, also seems to get a bang out of it.  (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)  Then if we can get a commitment from Kim to teach weaving that would be another plus (by the way, she and Daniel are going to move into a little house outside of Sanctuary for now but we’ve given them a standing offer that they are welcome to come in if that eventually winds up suiting them better). 

Glenn said not to forget my herbal and gardening knowledge, Reba’s cheese and yogurt making, and Angus’ trapping and tracking. 

I think this will also be where Dawson and Emma will come into things.  They’ve been around for a little over a month but have been taking things really slow and trying to find their footing.  You know how it is when you come into a group that’s well-established.  I’ve noticed that Emma hangs out with Reba a lot.  I regret not taking the time to get to know her better but I just feel so topped off with so much going on.  I have just got to make myself go to more of the women’s afternoon teas.  I need the break and I need to keep in touch with the women I don’t get to interact with as much.  I know I keep saying it but I really do need to do it. 

Dawson for his part seems to hang out with Cease and McElroy quite a bit.  He and McElroy are likely our mechanical engineers.  If it has an engine they can usually tinker it into working whether it wants to or not.  Something in the tow truck blew up and I thought for sure that it had breathed its last.  After about 48 hours of taking something apart, cleaning it, and then putting it back together the tow truck ran better than ever. 

I’m a little worried about their son Michael.  He’s so quiet.  He always seems to be operating on the outside.  He seems to be fine with that but a guy can take the introverted thing too far.  Maybe something in particular will spark his interest and he’ll train for that.  Success breeds success and maybe that will turn into more self-confidence.  Not that he’s got a problem with that but sixteen year old boys are sixteen year old boys whether they are already six feet tall or not.  Something that gives him positive feedback certainly won’t hurt.  I will say he is a little easier in James’ company now that Tris is here than before.  Tris is very good natured and easy going; he probably makes a good bridge to James’ more intense personality. 

What it’s basically come down to is that in the beginning when it was totally necessary our thinking shrunk to micro issues.  While those issues are still important, it would be devastating to our community long term if we continued to think exclusively micro in nature.  We don’t want to just survive, we want to live and thrive. 

To that end Glenn’s crew’s next run is going to be for rebar.  He said he is going to try and run by one of those textile mills at the same time but he’ll have to see.  Once he brings back the rebar and the remaining concrete equipment they are going to build slip forms and start pouring a new outer Wall.  It will start with observation towers that sort of look like concrete silos.  After the towers are all poured then they’ll pour the walls between the towers using slip forms as well.  Its going to take a lot of concrete but Scott was telling me that he, Glenn, and Dix talked about a Wall that was three feet thick and eventually twenty-five feet tall. 
 
It sounds crazy to me but a thirty-five foot silo can easily be poured in five to six days.  If we have enough forms built and going at the same time then we could literally have all of the towers we want poured in a week or two at most.  The slip forms for the in between Wall sections could be poured at least as quickly.  Then it would be a matter of giving the concrete curing time and then we can go in and finish off the insides of the towers and reconstruct the gateway mechanisms.  So let’s say four to six weeks from start to finish to build the new Wall.  From there go onto Aldea and from there to OSAG … or possibly, if there is enough raw material and working equipment and supplies, have more than one of these projects going at the same time.  The one thing that Scott insists on this time is at least one “King Kong” gate so that we can more easily get our big equipment in and out of the compound.   

As for what is to become of the storage container Wall I don’t think we know for sure yet.  We may do a little reconfiguring but basically leave it in place so that we have a two-perimeter Wall  - an inner Wall and a Curtain Wall – or we might dismantle some of it and offer it to our satellite communities for their own security walls.  But for a fact we still need the storage space that those containers have offered.  At least we have options, a lot of groups out there don’t. 

The only concern I have is that we may draw unwanted attention to ourselves.  There are some doofus people out there that can’t resist a challenge.  It’s also going to necessitate clearing another 50 yards or so of greenery back from the outer perimeter.  I really don’t want to clear cut the area.  I wonder if I can talk them into selectively cutting out trees.  The Hive and NRSC attack did so much damage to the surrounding landscape that it may not be worth trying to save much, but there are a few fruit trees and bushes that I would hate to lose. 

I suppose I could do what I did with the rose bushes.  The men just kind of gave way and helped when I told them I wanted a rose garden.  This was way back when we were still having to do nearly everything by hand and labor hours were a limited resource.  I went around the neighborhoods in the area and nearly every rose bush I saw was dug up for replanting.  Not all of them survived but most of them did.  I have nearly constant blooms of some type out there and more than once I’ve caught a couple out romancing or a one of the men have asked me to cut them a bud to take home to their sweety.  If I can dig up what I want to save and replant it then the whole point of selective cutting may be moot. 

The kids were really tired come dinner time and they were nasty dirty.  They washed up and some of them were falling asleep in their plates.  Nana went to comment on the situation but Mr. Morris forestalled it by saying, “Not a word Winnie.” After dinner and clean up every one of them ran off to bed before we could give them more chores. 

It was about that time that McElroy and Dawson come back in from check the Wall just about roaring with laughter.  I still don’t get what Glenn has for gnomes and elves lately; must be a guy thing or some kind of inside joke.  Did I mention that Glenn drank quite a bit of Angus’ mead this afternoon?  Pardon for the swearing but Scott insisted I transcribe it “as is” for posterity.  Did I mention that Scott had more mead than he normally does this afternoon?  Hope they both wake up with nature’s retribution.  Humph. 

On a sign outside the skunkworks area there is now a big sign with the old Nabisco Keebler Elves tree logo on it and underneath that is written: 

"We are pleased to announce the opening of our new workshop, where we hope to start making all sorts of lovely treats, filled with elfin goodness and just a touch of magic. Please don't try to come in, we are very busy busting our little tiny elfish asses to cook up lovely treats for you....some old, some new.

We'd also like to take a moment to welcome some of our cousins, the Land Gnomes and the North Pole Crew.

With the reduction in customer base and subsequent drop in demand Santa was more than willing to waive the industry non-disclosure agreements of his little helpers in order they be able to accept positions with our newly reorganized company. Along with his best wishes and gratitude for long service, he sends some of his top elves with the rest of the crew, and has wished our new enterprise the best of success. In a public show of appreciation, the union has voted to leave a little something special in his stocking this year. Don't drink it all at once, big guy, or Rudolf won’t be the only one with a bright red nose leading the way!

We apologize to you big folks for receiving the silent treatment from our cousins the Land Gnomes, who've we brought in as "Industry Consultants" at the request of Tony "the Barracuda" Denitzio, the famous cement shoe magnate and waste disposal industry entrepreneur in the New York Tri-State area. Tony has expressed that he'd like to see the concrete production industry get back on its feet so he can get back to his business of putting it on other people's feet....so to speak. He feels our success is in his best interests. He suggested the boys could, "come down to make sure nobody gives you any problems", and we felt that it was just an offer we couldn't refuse. He regrets that the boys may be a bit standoffish, but they're still a bit touchy about the mistreatment they were getting every year on Halloween, with the toilet paper and eggs and all. Tony said if we "just leave them alone we won’t have to worry about nobody getting cranky and losing their head over nothing".

All in all, we feel that over the coming months we will be able to restore your confidence in us, and that you will be greatly satisfied with our line of products, old and new, now that we are a self-managed organization.

Sincerely,
The (FREE) Keebler Elves.

PS- F*** Brownies!!!!

 

Now you can see why I think Glenn is certifiable.  I think Angus must put something in that mead he brews up.  Next thing you know we’ll be pulling Glenn off the Wall ‘cause he thinks he is seeing dragons.  Pink flying dragons maybe … or maybe that should be pink flying elephants.   

I still think there is something up but … I guess I’ll figure it out in time.  I poured Scott into bed a couple of hours ago and I need to put this typewriter away and go feed Wiggles.  When that is done I’m off to bed.  I’ve got breakfast duty in the morning and its wash day.  Fun, fun.
 

Day 273 (Monday) – April 30 – Wash Day 

Well, I was beginning to wonder if I would ever see the day again.  A working washing machine.  Scott calls it an early anniversary gift (it’s coming up on May 7th if you can believe that). 

Glenn made the prototype at Aldea and OSAG had a prototype as well.  I was getting jealous – well, sorta anyway – but the reality is that we needed to set up a good work station area with a water tank with enough capacity that we weren’t going to kill ourselves hauling water from all over constantly.  We also needed to set up a holding tank for draining off the water.  Eventually Scott said he will put in a well that will pump water into the initial holding tank so that we don’t have to be dependent on a cistern set up.  You’ll see better as I explain how it was done. 

First we had to salvage as many standard washing machines as we needed.  We’ve started with a dozen but we found out today that we need to expand to at least fifteen for it to be really efficient like a Laundromat would be.  Next we had to pour a slab for the machines to sit on so that the drums would stay balanced while they spun.   

After we set the machines in place Scott opened the back of them up so he could see the v-belt that goes from the electric motor to the agitator. He dismounted the motors and removed the v-belts.  Then came the strange part; he built a see-saw for the kids.  Scott used a strong pipe for the axle/pivot and rigidly attached the see-saw to the axle. The axle extended far passed the area where the children play and near to the washers.  

Then Scott – and Dawson who was laughing his fanny off at this point - mounted a large pulley wheel to the end of the axle, with a reciprocating arm on the pulley wheel.  It kind of looked like old choo-choo train wheels.  This was in turn attached to another axle using the rear sprocket of an old 10-speed bicycle and chain with a flywheel replacing the bicycle wheel.  Then a series of v-belts was run in turn to the agitators.

How it works is as the kids ride on the see-saw they turn the axle, causing the wheel/arm combination to turn the flywheel in one direction (and allows it to build up more speed....the bicycle sprocket allows the flywheel to coast if the kids slow down and keeps the final axles rotation smooth and even) which is then transferred to the agitators by the v-belts.  The wash cycle timer/switch are mechanical and run through any/all cycles (including the spin cycle) just as if it was still hooked up to an electrical system.

We have to add the water manually by opening the valve from the cistern but Scott rigged up pipes running above each machine with connectors and valves so we can actually fill up each machine that we need as it requires water, even all at the same time if necessary though the water pressure can get a little low. 

For emptying the washers, Scott tied each outflow pipe to a larger diameter PVC pipe which he ran into a second holding tank.  We have to manually empty that tank after it fills but the water is perfect for gray water.  Tomorrow Mr. Morris wants to use the water to scrub down the concrete floor in the smaller barn out in the animal enclosure.  The big barn has a dirt floor and the kids mucked that out yesterday.  The concrete floor however needs a good scrubbing. 

The only drawback I’ve found thus far is that we still have to boil water for the white loads but compared to what we normally had to do this is unbelievably easier.  The women were so giddy that even we took turns on the see-saw and the kids started complaining.  Scott also wants to hook up one of those really heavy duty commercial machines that you can wash blankets and quilts in without tearing up the machine.  That will come in handy.  Hopefully we’ll be able to figure out replacements if we run out of V-Belts down the road. 

The other thing Scott has plans to do is build a pole barn type covering for Sanctuary’s “Laundromat.”  Right now we just have a tarp up on poles but I’m not complaining.  The other thing we are considering is whether we should have a community clothes line or just keep the ones we’ve put up in the individual yards.  I’m definitely keeping some of my lines for those in between washes of socks and under things but it would be nice to get rid of some of the lines that crisscross the yard. 

Despite the magic washing machines and a couple of other things that I’ll write about in a minute the day actually started out ordinarily enough.  I had breakfast duty and we have things in the cooler that need to be used up or preserved.  I made squash biscuits for the bread.  With the yellow crookneck squash coming in hand over fist this served two purposes; it used the squash in some other way besides frying them and it helped extend our ever shrinking supply of flour.  I also had the girls cut up a bunch of melon for a fruit salad type thing.  Milk, coffee, and tea was on of course but I also made up some limeage now that the key lime tree is full.  Gack, they are almost too sour for anything but flavoring.  I wound up having to add some canned OJ to kick back the sour factor a couple of notches.  Even with sugar the lime flavor was really right there in your face. 

The main dish was Spanish omelets; eggs, milk, diced potatoes, cheese, and chorizo … all from our own “farmstead” supplies.  I overcooked a couple of the omelets but no one complained within my hearing so I’m not going to worry about it too much.   

After breakfast I left while others took over clean up duty and then got our wash going.  I actually felt at loose ends the work load was so much less.  Rose and Melody were practically dancing in the aisles.  There was still a lot of hanging clothes on the lines and then folding or hanging clothes up once they were finished drying but come on that beats using sticks and plungers to wash any day of the week.  The new set up also makes visiting easier.  Emma and Autumn were doing their washing at the same time and I had a nice chat with them.   

Emma is very practical.  She takes things in stride if you know what I mean.  Probably a reflection on what her life was like pre-NRS and it’s just transferred to the way things are now.  I like that.   

Autumn is practical in a different way.  She was a first responder pre-NRS so she doesn’t panic and Ski has been grateful to have another pair of hands to fall back on at the Clinic.  Autumn is also teaching Rose and Melody some triage type things that will stabilize a patient until someone with more training can get to them.  In an attack or catastrophic situation where our Clinic might get overwhelmed, triage management is a critical skill to have. 

Found out more about how Cooper and Autumn have been trying to help pinpoint where the remnants of the ZKK are trading with the black marketers.  The first scheduled trade they helped us find wasn’t a good ambush location and zombies got in the way of the operation which was primarily carried out by Aldea and OSAG personnel.  The second one the black marketers were a no-show.  This is the last scheduled trade that Autumn and Cooper know of.  Autumn isn’t exactly certain what will be in the load as the details were a closely guarded secret that not even the Bookkeeper spoke of except directly to Zassat. 

Jim and some of the young bucks from Aldea as well as Dix and Matlock are going to set up an ambush.  They already know the area, it is downtown where they first met Jim.  They don’t plan on tangling with the blackmarketeers at all; the ambush is two streets over from the dock in question and will occur after the other party has left.  All we want is to finish crippling the ZKK. 

And no, it’s not because we are carrying a grudge though I think David is a little too emotionally involved.  Rose told me he still hasn’t let Brandon’s death go though he is dealing with it.  No, it’s that Dora and OSAG are pulling in bits and pieces that the ZKK is expanding again.   

Given our losses last time a full on assault of their Westshore compound isn’t our first choice.  However, if we can “starve them out” then the entire ZKK system might implode on its own.  So, if we get their trade which will hopefully leave them short of ammo then this in turn could give the other small families and group that they are charging “protection money” to a chance to refuse or revolt.  The other thing we may have to do is pick off their patrols and whittle the number of their fighting force down a wee bit more.  People who have seen the Westshore compound say that they’ve really reinforced things.  We’ve had a few stories of people going in and never being seen again but we’ve no proof and it might just be a scare tactic. 

The other thing we are hearing is that the ZKK are beginning to act as middle men for hard to acquire items.  The blackmarketeers get the goods however they acquire them; whether through salvage operations, raiding, whatever.  They sell the goods to ZKK at a mark up for whatever … gold or other goods was the most common though there are rumors of human trafficking.  They in turn sell or barter to the locals at exorbitant mark up.  This last is an expansion on what they were already doing but with goods becoming scarcer they are creating and encouraging a dependence that most of us agree is dangerous to our region.   

I’m trying very hard not to get edgy about tonight’s operation but James will be going without Scott or David to watch his back.  Dix wants to put James on top of one of the buildings with a night scope … I think that’s what he was yammering on about anyway; I lost him when he started to get technical.  It attaches to the sniper’s rifle that Dix gave to James and I assume that means that he can see in the dark with it.  The whole lot of them left hours ago and I’m sitting her chewing my nails waiting for them to come home.   

We’ve opted for radio silence.  We don’t want the ZKK leadership to easily be able to figure out what happened to their men and supplies.  And as for the reason why we don’t want to mess with the blackmarketeers it is because we are letting the US Military patrol group stationed nearby have them.  I’ll leave the explaining of things until after I hear that everyone has returned safe and sound.  I’m so eat up with it that I have to let it go for now. 

Before I close today’s entry I’m going to transcribe Angus’ sightseeing entries.  Rereading what happened is just as bad the second time around as it was the first.  My nerves are shot. 

Sightseeing part 5 

Having a little trouble writing, got ourselves a little banged up last night. Our well thought out plan to find out what the stormtroopers are up to turned into a rushed rescue mission instead. Then we had to be rescued ourselves by John. The storm did show up, just slower than the sky indicated. It was a nice steady rain that just kept getting stronger as time went by. The lightning started before dinner and it was pretty dark for the time of day except when the lightning made us blink.  

John decided to get the spotting scope off the roof because it was the only one they had and while he was grabbing it he saw something during a lightning flash that had him stay up there. Jim was yelling at him to get his crazy ass down from up there when John yelled down that someone was over at the industrial park. Jim told him he didn't care if somebody was there or not, he had to get down off that roof. Then John yelled down that he thought our dog was with the person over there. Well then I had John and Jim up on the roof. Just before I threatened to shoot them both off the roof they came rushing down.  

John told us as he was getting his rifle that the person he saw looked like the daughter of someone that lived in a small group east of him. The father had taken his pregnant daughter and was heading north for the radio station because the odd DJ that’s on there announced they had a doctor and his girl was close to having her kid. Jim was putting on his jacket and just said “that dog’s leading her right past the goons building."  

Now I have to stop here and make a point. On more than one occasion the leaders of Sanctuary have given me huge mountains of shit because I don't follow plans. Sissy has threatened to blow up my still because I don't follow plans. Even wee Bekah has waved her little finger at me for not following plans. Here I had a plan, a well thought out plan, and I had intended to follow that plan. That being said, we charged out into the dark. 

After John unhooked the gate I told him to get his truck and get it down there as fast as he could but to stay one building over. If we were lucky Jim and I could get to the girl and Scrappy before the goons noticed them. Going as fast as we could towards the buildings took us over the road in front of their home and across a 30 yard stretch of tall grass that separated the industrial complex from the road. The grass was tall and very wet, three or four steps in and I was soaked.  

Once in the park we had to pass three other buildings before we got to the one the stormtroopers were in. The storm by this point was right on top of us, the lightning and thunder where happening at the same time and it was blinding and shook us (or at least me) to the bones. I can’t believe we didn't see the lightning striking the ground as that’s what it all felt like.  

Just across from the building we stopped and scanned the area in front for any sign of the girl. We didn't get there before her. She was stopped right in front of the buildings front display window bent over with her hands on her knees looking like she was catching her breath. Scrappy was right there in front of her whining and looking all around. I put my hand on Jim's shoulder just as he was about to run out there and help her. I told him ( in his ear as it was hard to hear in the storm ) not to run out there because she doesn't know him and it's likely going to scare the crap out of her and she's likely to scream and let everyone inside know we’re out here.  

What came next all happened at the same time. There was a bright flash of lightning with it's boom of thunder, the girl jumped startled, and the front window of the building exploded. The window exploded because a zombie came running strait at the girl straight through the window. It was wearing the stormtroopers black uniform, and in full riot gear. But there was no doubt it was a zombie because it wasn't wearing a helmet and it was missing its right arm.  

I wasn't thinking, I just swung my rifle up and tried to get my sights on the runner. With the lightning flashes and then darkness it was hard to focus my eyes. With the both of us I figured one of us would get the shot before it got to the girl. Only Jim wasn't there with me anymore. Just when I found the girl in the dark I saw Jim slam into the runner as it was grabbing the girl. I also saw more stormtrooper zombies coming through the now open wall of the building so I swung the rifle there and started shooting. I took out the first one that came through and just as I was pulling the trigger on the second one the lightning blinded me again. I knew I had hit it but I was blinded for a second and not waiting for my eyes to adjust I started forward to get closer to help Jim if he needed it and to be able to see better being closer in the dark.  

I grabbed the girl (who was on her knees screaming) and told her to get behind me as Jim came staggering into view. Two more shamblers where walking though the opening and I raised the rifle as I walked towards Jim shooting one as I went. I never saw what hit me, John filled in the missing parts later.  

I opened my eyes to the pouring rain, and a ringing in my ears. Then I saw a zombie fly past me (through the air) and a shot from Jim's revolver turned my head. My chest felt like a truck had hit me. As my eyes found Jim in the darkness there was another flash of lightning and I saw Jim fighting with two zombies and rolled over and up. After only one running step I was stopped dead in my tracks by what was in front of me, and throwing zombies out of its way to get to me. The biggest (dead) man I had ever seen.  

It was 7 feet tall easy, and I knew it out weighed me by a lot. And it was a Rager and it was coming for me and I was scared. I don't remember drawing my shotty or lifting it but it went off just as that thing got to me. I still don't know where the shot landed on that thing, but it wasn't its head.  

Then I was lifted off the ground and straight into its mouth. I shoved the shotty in its mouth before my face got there and tried like hell to shove it down that things throat. I remember hearing another shot from Jim's gun and I was tossed aside as the zombie retched my gun out of its mouth. The shotty was gone and I didn't know where my rifle was as I lost it when I was first knocked senseless.  

As I took my feet I had my new hammer in my hand and according to John, an insane grin on my lips. I was going to die, and it was going to be a glorious death. I felt that even though I had let Jim and everyone down I was at least going to die in battle. With the hammer griped in both hands I charged the zombie as it was charging me. I got past its left grabbing arm and as I was swinging the hammer with everything I had my aim was moved by its other arm and my blow landed on its shoulder and I heard a crunch.  

Then as it grabbed the front of my jacket it hurled me straight to the ground. I managed to get a one armed swing at its head as it bent down and grabbed me again. Then I was flying, and when I landed on my left leg I felt a pop in my knee and a pain shoot up into my spine. The Rager was coming at me again, and I watched it's face explode into a red mist and it dropped right in front of me. I saw Jim sitting against the buildings wall and John off to his side with a rifle still raised to his shoulder. Then the rain started to blur my eyesight and I heard Jim say something then there was nothing.
 

Day 274 (Tuesday) – April 30 

I just realized that I completely mucked up my calendar dates.  Scott and I kept trying to figure out what day the 7th was on so that we could maybe have a special dinner for our anniversary.  I kept looking at my calendar; he kept counting the days up in his head.  Turns out my journal dates are wrong.  They were off by a day and I think it happened last week.  This just drives me nuts when it happens; this isn’t the first time I’ve done this.  All of the commercial calendars are gone and we now are forced to make our own.  It’s way too easy to miss a date and throw everything off. 

Everyone is back and in one piece which does my nerves a world of good.  James is a little shook up though he refuses to admit it.  It was his first offensive operation since his injury.  Saen told me she was surprised that I let him go.  As much as I hate to admit it he’s going to be 17 in just a couple of months and I don’t know if I could stop him.  I don’t agree with all the things he and Scott do but I know that at a certain point agreeing or disagreeing with them is a moot point.  James is practically grown and either I trust him or I don’t.  I’m proud to say I trust my son.  I have to act like I do and just let it go at that as much as possible. 

The convoy pulled into Sanctuary a little after two in the morning.  They would have been home before that but they wound up having to detour around the area nearest where the blackmarketeers and the military were going at it near the shore line.  That meant backtracking to a different part of the city and then cutting across until they could get to us. 

James explained how it went down from his vantage on top of a building where he had a view of the drop and of the ambush point.  The drop point was near where Kennedy Blvd crosses over the Hillsborough River where it pours into Hillsborough Bay.  The bridges to Davis Island had been dropped as had the bridge to Harbor Island so neither location would have been good for the land-bound ZKK though James said it looked like the blackmarketeers might use both islands as staging points on occasion.   

All of our people were in position well before the scheduled drop, and a good thing too because the blackmarketeers sent people ashore in advance of the ZKK showing up.  When they apparently didn’t find anything they backed off and then waited for the ZKK to show up which occurred around 10 o’clock. 

First thing the ZKK wanted to take possession of the goods, but the blackmarketeers wanted payment first.  James said he thought they were going to get into a fight and our whole plan would have been for nothing but when I asked later, Dix said it was nothing but macho posturing.  What I didn’t like was the “currency” they were using.   

The stories of human trafficking turned out to be truth rather than fiction.  James said there were a couple dozen females, from young tweens to maybe 30s at the oldest.  What he actually said was, “You don’t have to worry about that Mom, they were only taking young women.”  What is it about people picking on my age recently?  The problem is that James was dead serious, he thought he was comforting me.  How do you respond to that kind of earnestness but to let it go? 

What James did wonder about, and some of the other men made more concrete guesses at, was whether the females had been drugged or something because none of them were crying or making a fuss or anything.   We’ve already seen that the ZKK are capable of cooking up drugs so I tend to agree with Jim that the women/girls were all dosed to the gills to keep them compliant and quiet but still mobile enough so that they didn’t have to be carried. 

After the women were stored below deck it ran just like the first time, the blackmarketeers made the ZKK do all of the manual labor off-loading their purchases; and then held them under gun point before they pulled away and down the channel.  At that point the ZKK loaded everything up into the back of the two military style transporters they brought with them.  

When they took off there was a driver and gunner in the lead vehicle which was a jeep; an old Jeep brand Jeep rather than one of those fancy military style things that you occasionally see burnt out on the side of the roads around town.  The jeep had a mounted gun in the back, I forget the number or whoseewhatsit that Dix called it.  All I know is looking at it now it sure does look like a close relative of the 50 caliber machine guns that we have mounted on the Wall.  The next two vehicles were the transports with a driver and gunner each.  Bringing up the rear was a little Toyota truck with another mounted gun that was a twin to the one in the jeep; this one also had a driver and gunner. 

This jived with what Cooper had said about the ZKK leadership always using the fewest men possible to meet with the blackmarketeers so that there were fewer people who could say where the drops occurred or what went on when they did … or how much they had to pay for things too probably.  Either way you looked at it, we were still left with a better ratio of men to theirs.  Not quite a 2:1 but close.  We would have had a 2:1 ratio but the guys from OSAG had to beg off; they’ve got a bad stomach virus going on over there, or possibly food poisoning.  Phillip had a cold and let someone else run his kitchen, what came next hasn’t been pretty for them.  Saen and I packed up a bunch of broth, some pretzels, and some extra Imodium and David took us by so we could drop it off.   

Anyway, as soon as they pulled out James keyed his mic to let Dix know.  They had specific landmarks he was to key his mic as soon as the lead vehicle came abreast of them.  The ambush took place on a stretch of road that wasn’t much more than an narrow alley way between two old three-story brick buildings.  The alley way was two truck lengths longer than their convoy.  As soon as the Toyota was all the way inside the alley, a large black NRSC panel truck was driven across the mouth of the alley to keep them from going forward.  Then a small pipe bomb was used to drop the corner of one of the buildings to keep the convoy from being able to back up.   

We didn’t even have a chance to offer them terms though I suspect none were going to be offered anyway.  At that point James’ job was two-fold; he was to keep anyone from being able to use the gun mounted on the Toyota and he was to keep anyone from escaping by climbing over the debris.  The jeep’s gun was covered by the men already at the front of the alley way. 

James said it happened so fast that even he was stunned.  The men on the ground reported that the gunner in the jeep and the Toyota started heading for the big guns.  The drivers were all reaching for their guns as well.  However only the two men in the second transport had the opportunity to put up a real opposition and it was only cussing and threatening; telling them how many ways they planned on killing out guys.  For our part they weren’t given a chance after that; eight shots through homemade silencers and eight newly dead – and staying dead – ZKKers.   

It got a little hairy at that point.  James’ vantage point gave him a partially obstructed view of the port area and he noticed flashes on the water.  He heard as well as saw a battle start up the blackmarketeers fleeing a Coast Guard vessel.  James also spied a vessel preventing the blackmarketeers’ boat from heading back up the channel. 

Dix came pounding up the stairs to get James so they could haul butt out of there but then stayed a moment as he sorted out a new escape route.  They couldn’t leave the same way that the ZKK came in just in case they had left a spotter or two.  The next best escape route was out because of fired ammunition from both the Coast Guard vessel and the blackmarketeer boat was hitting the shoreline and the noise was already drawing a large number of infecteds that still contaminated the entire downtown area.  Another route took them too close to the Westshore area of town and inside ZKK territory.  The remaining route that required the least jagging and jogging would take them furthest away from the direction that they wanted to go, but there wasn’t any choice. 

As soon as Dix and James were back in the alley way the panel truck was moved and our whole group headed out, now with four extra vehicles and a “boatload” of new supplies.  What is it about puns lately?  I keep running into them whether I mean to or not. 

Everyone bunked down at Aldea for what remained of the night.  It was all over the radio the next day about a big battle between a joint Coast Guard/Navy taskforce and several blackmarketeer boats.  There hadn’t been just one boat out there, there had been three; only the one loaded with supplies for the ZKK had come to shore.  The other two must have been hidden on the other side of the Davis or Harbor island and only come out because they thought they could outnumber the one Coast Guard vessel … they didn’t realize there was one blocking one of the channels and one further out in the Bay waiting to see if they were needed.  Hostages were rescued, press gang kidnappees released on probation, prisoners taken, the US Military forces in the area had their reputation go up a notch, and the blackmarketeers got a black eye.  You’d think that was the end of the story. 

Nope.  Late this afternoon from what we have been able to piece together the blackmarketeers moved against the ZKK stronghold at Westshore.  They must have thrown everything at it but the kitchen sink and a small nuclear device.  They made it pretty plain that they blamed the ZKK for tipping off the military as to their location.  Showed what they knew.  Good thing we made our tip anonymously.  Dix said that it sounded like they had used a rocket launcher to open the Westshore stronghold’s gate after they were refused entry.  They took everything they considered valuable, including all the woman and girl children, and gutted everything else.  It was a bloodbath and they left the compound unusable.  Whoever is running that group of blackmarketeers has too much firepower … and too much nastiness … for us to want to tangle with them.  

The situation has made Glenn move up his timetable for going after rebar by a couple of days.  He plans to try and stay to the south of us in the Clearwater/Sarasota area as they were working on a long stretch of interstate down that way and he hopes to find rebar and lots of cement materials all congregated in one place.  The other place he’s going to go is all of the construction sites that are in and around the Tampa Airport area.  They’ve been building there for five years and still haven’t managed to finish it and everywhere you look is piles of that rock and junk to make road sections as well as rebar by the mile … or at least there was pre-NRS.  I don’t know what it looks like these days.  He says if he has time he is going by one or more of those textile places too.  Saen has given him quite a list of things she wants him to look for but at least one of them is no longer an emergency. 

The single guys didn’t think much of some of about a quarter of the take from the ZKK haul.  The women however breathed a heavy sigh of relief (as did their men).  Lots and lots of feminine hygiene products.  That stuff is getting as scarce as hen’s teeth.  Having people pregnant has helped with that some but without some resupply things are gonna get rough. 

A little over a quarter of the haul was ammo.  Don’t ask me what it was but no one is turning their nose up at it.  What we can’t use becomes barter goods.  It’s all new stuff as well, no reloads.  Where they are getting it would be a good question to have answered.  We’ve got lots of theories but no hard facts to base them on.

There was a large case of fresh batteries still in their original packaging which would have fetched a hefty price.  Another couple of cases held those little one-pound propane canisters.  There were about six cases of mixed antibiotics.  Waleski – and Chad after he had a chance to weigh in – said more than like the medicines were all from a salvage operation of some kind.  Some of the antibiotics were close to being out of date.  The Tetracycline was out of date and will likely be disposed of.  Tetracycline is one of the medicines that a “use by” date really is important because it will go bad and get poisonous.  The remaining cases were canned and dried food.   

These medications actually work really well with some of the pro bono work we plan to provide to children on Market Days.  Iggy thought of this.  For kids twelve years of age and under we will provide pro bono health services, over twelve but under-eighteen it will depend on what it is; adults will have to trade for assistance.  Aside from the obvious moral issues, this will also give us a good reputation that will help with allies.  OK, that sounds a little mercenary but it isn’t really meant to be.  I consider it more along the lines of killing two birds with one stone. 

That only left the six barrels to inventory.  Two of the barrels contain cooking oil, a valuable commodity these days when fats are getting hard to come by in the diet.  Two of the barrels contained very coarse cornmeal and the last two barrels contained flour.  Both the cornmeal and the flour had weevils in it so I’ve “quarantined” them from the other food stuff and I helped to sift and re-bag all of it so it could be put in the cooler/freezer to kill off any bugs that made it through the sifting process.    The cooking oil wasn’t the best either but it wasn’t used, just wasn’t the highest grade. 

The stuff in the barrels is probably a product of post-NRS production facilities.  That would explain their apparent lower quality.  Now whether they came from the states – Free Zone or Quarantine Zones – or whether from Mexico we have no way of knowing for sure.  I wouldn’t put it past the blackmarketeers to be involved in international trade of some kind.  It’s been like that since the beginning of time and it all depends on whose side you are on as to whether it’s a good thing or bad.  Think the old privateer ships.  Some people called them pirates and some people called them patriots. 

That cornmeal and flour wasn’t the only thing I was prepping for the Cooler today.  Our gardens are still producing more than we are eating right away.  By this coming Thursday’s food prep day we’ll have more than we can handle getting it preserved.  What I harvested yesterday and today:  Romano bush beans, sunset runner pole beans, Henderson bush lima beans, Dixie baby butter beans, wren’s egg dried bush beans, Clemson spineless okra, red burgundy okra, star of david okra, golden scallop summer squash, yellow crookneck summer squash, All Blue Potatoes, black diamond watermelons, Georgia rattlesnake watermelons, Louisiana sweet watermelons, moon and stars yellow fleshed watermelons, orange fleshed watermelons, boothby’s blonde cucumbers, double yield pickles, Japanese climbing pickles, Parisian pickling cucumbers, tendergreen burpless cucumbers, west Indian gherkin pickles, white wonder cucumbers.  The yellow, orange, and pink fleshed watermelons are going to make a really neat fruit salad to go with breakfast tomorrow.  Betty wants to make blue mashed potatoes for dinner tomorrow to see if Kevin will eat them.  Seems like Kevin is not quite as adventuresome in the new food department as I gave him credit for being.  This ought to be fun. 

After a late night I’m tired so even though I could probably keep writing – this really is therapeutic for me – I’m going to sign off and go to bed.  Tomorrow promises to be another full day.

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