Thursday, August 14, 2014

March: Lions and Lambs (part 1)

March:  Lions and Lambs
Days:  213 – 243

Day 213 (Thursday) – March 1

Another milestone, the turning of another month.  March, if it comes in like a lion it is supposed to go out like a lamb.  Raspberries on that.  We need rain and we need it badly.  Bring on some lions already. 

According to the records we are keeping we are already down two inches in rain for the year.  Doesn’t sound like much but that is a lot considering this is already our dry season.  I know the gardens are already suffering and we need whatever we can bring in.  We’ve got the animals to feed and ourselves.  I had the kids walking down all the rows of corn and hand watering the plants.  I know that seems really stupid but I don’t know what else to do.  We’ve got to have that corn crop and not just for the men’s stupid corn liquor.  If I hear one more word about that still I swear I’ll take an ax to it more thoroughly than an old time revenuer.   

“We’ll trade for it.”  That’s the only answer anyone seems to have when I tell them that I’m worried the gardens aren’t going to make.  “We’ll trade for it.”  From who?!  With what?  For what?!!  I tell you what, if they try and use one kernel of that corn for making mash before I’ve got enough canned and dried for the next couple of seasons and I swear I will make a Rager look like Barney the Purple Dinosaur. 

And if we can’t trade for it they think we’ll just keep scavenging for it.  It was bad enough after the Big Horde.  Trees and bushes down all outside the Wall and they were just really getting to where I thought we’d be able to get another season out of them.  Now we’ve had a Hive come through … and those idiots with their armored vehicles tearing up everything every which way from Sunday.  And the destruction runs for freaking miles in all directions.  What the Hive and the NRSC hasn’t destroyed it looks like the fire may have. 

There’s been a little bit of noise on the radio; not much, and none of it good.  We still haven’t heard from OSAG.  I hope Steve and his clan are all right.  The NRSC had a hard on against them.  Steve told them in a way that no one could misunderstand that they could go screw themselves.  I hope to high heavens that they came through OK.  If we can just get these stupid zombies to finish going away, or at least thinning out, then Scott, Angus, and Jim said that they would run over there and check things out.  Matlock and Glenn are eager to see if Aldea survived and in what shape. 

I had the kids on bucket brigade most of the day.  They’d take turns pumping water from the hand pump and then running buckets of water to refill barrels and cisterns.  That left the kids exhausted and many nearly fell asleep during dinner.  Do I feel badly?   Yes.  Did I do it anyway?  Yes.  Its necessary. 

I’m so tired I can barely think straight myself but my back is hurting so bad and my left arm has the shakes so I’m up waiting to see if some herbal tea helps before I go begging for something from Waleski.   

It all started this morning.  It was still dark, about 4 AM I guess.  I was on guard duty on that piece of the Wall that surrounds the pasture area.  Right beneath my position something suddenly hits the Wall hard enough to create a vibration in the metal all the way up.  My first thought was that the NRSC vehicle right below had somehow been started up again and was trying to make its way inside our perimeter. 

There was no moon so it’s not like I could see what was going on exactly.  And then came another hit and then another but these felt like they were hitting higher than the first one had.  I didn’t see as I had a choice despite it giving our position away.  I heard the boots of the other guards coming in my direction.  I hit the spotlight to see what the noise was. 

By all that is Holy!    

I have seriously, not in the seven long months since this all started, seen anything like this … this … this thing.  Or zombie.  Or … it was an NRS infected.  It had on one of the black uniforms that designated it as one of the NRSC troopers … or that it used to be one … what was left of one.   

I didn’t have time to think.  It was staring right up into my face though there is no way that it could have seen me with what was left of its face.   

I brought the shotgun down that Scott had insisted I keep with me when I was on guard duty at night.  He said I wouldn’t have to have perfect aim, just the general direction of anything that got close enough to warrant its use in the first place.  But I was so badly startled that I forgot where I was.  On the Wall.  On a smooth metal surface.   

I’m terrible with the shotgun.  I’m too short … OK, not too short but I just never have gotten the hang of centering my body correctly.  And I don’t get enough practice with the shotgun either.  We have to watch ammo so gratuitous target practice is now out.  So when I brought the shotgun up and around and aimed for the general direction of its head I didn’t take the time to balance myself properly.   

I pulled the trigger and just managed to take the very top of the things head off.  In the process however I fell backwards, lost my balance and hit the chain that we were using hard enough to snap it.  I cartwheeled backwards and came down on the catwalk we had attached to the second level of the Wall. 

Apparently I hit the sturdier guard rail on the catwalk and was bounced back onto the steel mesh floor where I stayed put because I had knocked myself out cold at some point on the way down. 

I woke when they were moving me onto a gurney to take me to the clinic.  There is almost nothing worse than having those small hairs at the very base of your hairline get stuck on something and yanked on.  My hair had come loose from my braid and a few hairs had wrapped around a screw or bolt and when they moved me … youch!  I don’t know who was more startled, me coming awake like that or David and James who were carrying the backboard with me on it. 

It took some convincing but they finally put me down and let me catch my breath.  I have a goose egg sized bump on the side of my head and I’ve already started to bruise a nice bright purple but otherwise I think I was more shook up than actually injured.  Scott was upset too but I think it was the sight of that ghastly thing that helped everyone get over the fright of my fall. 

It had definitely been an NRSC trooper in its human life.  Part of the banging I heard was the body armor hitting the Wall every time it jumped.  Yeah.  It was a climber … well, sort of. 

I thought back to the things that we’ve learned up to this point about the zombies.  The mutations are dependent on blood type and what type of infected then infects the human.  However, there are also variations that can be caused by some blood and neuro disorders or some recessive genetic traits.  This boy … or girl, I couldn’t tell and haven’t wanted to ask … must have started out A- blood type.  That gave it the “climber” variant of NRS; but it must have had something else going on.  Jamie hadn’t learned all of the “typing procedures” before he died and if the military had known that data they hadn’t shared it with us. 

The body’s feet and hands were gone.  The only thing left were sharp, broken bones where they had been gnawed off by the zombies that brought it down when it was still human.  A lot of the soft tissue on its face was also missing.  But, what remained of its skin had started to grow … tumors I guess you’d call them.  But not tumors like the zombie-eating zombie mutants.  These tumors … well … these tumors moved.  It reminded me of a sea anemone only anemones are pretty.  These things were just plain nasty looking and a pale, sickly white like it had never seen sunlight. 

Even after I’d blown the top of the brain off and for all intents and purposes stopped the NRS zombie, those tumors continued to move for another two hours before the whole corpse finally went into advanced decay.  In fact we had never seen a zombie decay so quickly before.  It must have had something to do with either the disease the human had suffered from or the tumors were continuing to feed off of the corpse even after I had stopped the NRS part of it.   

I hope to never see anything like that zombie again.  The Mutant zombies with their black tumors are bad enough, this thing was in a whole ‘nother category of horrific.  It sunk its bone stumps so far into the wood that it was impossible to detach as a whole piece.  We had just about decided to cut it off and dig the bones out of the wood later when the decay process started.  There are still some remnants of it attached to the Wall but most of what remained of the flesh and skeletal structure has fallen down to the ground. 

I didn’t really get sore from the fall until late in the day.  I kept myself pretty busy, mostly to prove to everyone (and myself) that I was OK.  I worked in the garden and started the next cycle of crops that need to be planted:  bush beans, pole beans, lima beans, cantaloupe, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, okra, blackeyed peas, peppers, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, summer squash, winter squash, tomatoes, watermelon, turnips, beets, carrots, collard greens, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard greens, peanuts, radishes, and Swiss chard.  Some of these I planted at the beginning of last month but I’m trying to keep everything from being ready for harvest all at the same time.  I was hesitant to plant more corn because of the drought but I just don’t feel I have any choice.  I have to try. 

I’m going have to give up.  I’ve really pinched something in my back I think.  As soon as Scott comes in from the dining hall pow-wow that started even before everyone had finished eating I’ll wander over to the Clinic and see if anyone is there.  


Day 214 (Friday) – March 2 

On the good side of the equation … the zombies are definitely moving westward.  Well, staggering westward.  OK, some of them are crawling westward.  Oh alright … some of them remind me of the scene at the end of that crazy movie Flight of the Living Dead; or any of the other awful zombie movies that Scott and I watched over the years.  I mean, things that shouldn’t be possible are.  Things that only weird and disturbed individuals should imagine are now part of our daily reality.   

I wouldn’t say that life sucks.  No.  I definitely wouldn’t say that.  Life isn’t easy.  You can’t just coast through life these days like you could before.  There is no entitlement to life these days.  You have to work to retain your life and the lives of your children.  But in a sense that is what makes it more valuable.  You only value those things you have to put effort into attaining and keeping.   

People stopped valuing life when it became too cheap.  This is the way it used to be:  What’s a little murder when there are way too many people in the world anyway?  What’s being a bad parent when you can just make another one just like them to replace them if they get taken away or they die?  Why not be a portly couch potato when there are lots of doctors and medications and operations that can take care of that later?  Why not screw up your family life because you can always get married and divorced until you find your “perfect” mate and you don’t need any kids to muck up your retirement years anyway?  After all, it’s all about being the center of the universe and doing what feels right and good at any given moment.  No absolutes should be enforced because that would limit a person’s “rights.” 

Now it’s not like that anymore.  Mother/infant mortality has skyrocketed.  Children outside of family groups are an apparent rarity.  Family group members (whether biological or sociological) work together for a common goal of survival.  Communities work together because together the members can accomplish more than they can separately.  People put more thought into their choice of mate because of how important that other person could become to their survival.   

But there is still a factor that there are a lot fewer humans populating the world than there used to be.  Sometimes regardless of what type of person your first instinct is to save them before you judge them.  That explains why we rescued the NRSC troopers when during a regular battle or war we would likely not have.  It wasn’t human vs. human like in a raid it was human vs. zombie and the instinct of one human to help another over road everything else.   

We here in Sanctuary likely model all of those issues to one extent or the other.  Even our singles who have no current interest in any kind of “hook up” with the opposite sex are careful about the relationships they do build.  Everyone tries to be more discerning; both in their own choices and in understanding the choices of others. 

Now for the bad side of the equation today … the ag wells for the gardens are much more difficult to dig than the one where we were able to water drill it.  Scott has an auger but it’s not anywhere near long enough.  We either need a longer auger or we need some other type of tool.  Scott thinks he could devise something using a compressor but that would mean hooking up one of the generators.  That would also mean possibly distracting the zombies from their westward migration. 

Caught between a rock and a hard place is what we are.  We must have the zombies move out of the area but we must also have water.  Without water our crops are going to die.  Without water our animals will die.  Without water we will die.  But if the zombies don’t leave then we are stuck inside this Wall and the same thing will ultimately happen to us anyway. 

We have access to our hand pump and the well that is hooked up to solar near our house but hauling that water is very physically intense.  We can get by for now so it was decided that we would wait another day, two at most, to see if the zombies are truly going to continue to move out and then we will see whether we can afford to wait on the ag wells.   

I spent a good chunk of the day watering in the gardens by hand again … and again with the children’s help.  We were all exhausted by the end of the day but it is necessary, especially with the new seeds that I put into the ground yesterday. 

Scott organized some of the men to finish pulling down some of the buildings within Sanctuary that have been too damaged to be used as housing.  He wants to get it done as soon as possible as he really feels that as soon as possible a significant number of our community members will likely occupy Aldea if it is still possible.  Matlock and Glenn seem to be extremely keen on this and spend a good deal of time with some of the others making plans. 

I can also tell that Angus and Jim are getting antsy and wanting to simply get out and see how things stand.  Those two get itchy feet more than anyone else in Sanctuary.  Scott used to be like that but I think he has curbed much of his wanderlust because he knows that something could happen and then I’d be left to raise the kids by myself. 

I want to mention that Dix is pretty sick.  He opened a package of jerky – none that we made but some that we had collected – and I guess he didn’t notice that it had some mold down in the farthest corner of the package.  The poor man puked almost nonstop for a while no matter what we did and he was running a low grade fever as well.  We finally figured out it was food poisoning and where it came from but it’s just going to have to run its course.  There isn’t a whole lot that we can do for something like that now that he has already puked everything up.  We all must be more careful.  If that had been one of the kids it could have been much worse.  Or it could have gone into a meal and the whole compound could have come down with food poisoning.   

As for my own injuries I’ve been hobbling all day.  I’ve got a lump that is a hematoma on the back of my left shoulder and my bra has been absolutely killing me.  I’ve switched to a sports bra but that hasn’t helped much because I still have a good dent between my shoulders where the bra clasp dug in.  I’m pretty much sore all over for that matter.  I’ll live but I’m going to be pretty shades of color for a bit longer than I expected.  It could have been worse so I feel I need to be grateful but I would have been even more grateful not to have fallen at all or not to have run into that freaky zombie. 

The zombie has been discussed off and on today by everyone.  Josephine and Brandon have started a catalog of zombies and the observations and research data that go along with each will be kept in the library.  I’m not sure that it will be of any immediate usefulness but at least it will available for posterity and for us to refer to if we should need it. 

As for the bottom line, we are probably better off than we have any right to expect.  Yes, we have some very serious challenges facing us but for now they are not insurmountable challenges.  What tomorrow will bring is anyone’s guess.

Day 215 (Saturday) – March 3 

Man oh man, when they say it’s the second day after an accident when you are the most sore they weren’t kidding.  My mind knows that I’m 42 but my body is telling me it’s closer to 102.  Scott and the kids were so sweet I just busted out crying and freaked them all out.   

By the dinner time I was so whooped that I didn’t even feel like eating.  Rose took Kitty and Sissy while the rest of the kids went with Scott.  I was just going to lay down but couldn’t manage to do much more than sprawl across the bed.  After dinner was bath time for everyone so I knew I was going to have to get up shortly anyway.  I must have dozed ‘cause the next thing I knew a freshly washed and combed Scott said he’d already taken care of the kids and that my bath was ready. 

Well, I didn’t think much of it except to kiss him in gratitude for taking care of the kids for me.  We’ve been using the term bath and shower interchangeably but really all there were available was showers.  I gather up my towel and scrub brush and go to the lanai to cut around to the outdoor shower space we have set up.    But as soon as I stepped out onto the lanai I noticed that someone had brought the big wash tub in.  And it was full of water.  It was full of warm water. 

I was still half asleep but still managed to jump pretty good when Scott came out with the decorative screen from out bedroom.   

“Sorry, no bubble bath since we’ll have to use this water tomorrow for watering the garden.  Go ahead and climb in while it is still warm.” 

I must have stayed in the tub for nearly an hour.  I’m embarrassed to say that it felt like I was soaking an inch deep layer of grime off my whole body but it felt soooooo gooooooood.  I haven’t felt this clean since I don’t know when.  It’s like a sandy beach in the bottom of the tub but I don’t care.   

I had a hard time climbing out so Scott had to help and then I took three Tylenol.  I’m still sore, but it’s a distant sore rather than a sharp and in your face kind of sore.  I just put on a robe and have been sitting here on the lanai writing and enjoying probably some of the last nice weather before the really warm stuff starts setting in.  It’s already getting up into the 80s during the day.  At this rate we’ll see 90 degree weather before the month is out. 

The rotten sour smell from the smoke and zombies wasn’t even too bad.  Well, either that or I’m just getting used to it.   

Angus and Jim took Juicer and cleared the outside of the Wall.  That was a mess and a half.  Glenn wants to try and salvage the armored vehicle that tried to take on Sanctuary head on.  The plow thing on the front is hung up in the wooden skin and is going to require cutting it out so it will just have to sit there until the zombie population is brought back under control.    

Rather than just mashing everything together Angus managed to just kind of pile everything off to the side.  I gag thinking about it, but we are going to have to figure out some way to go through all of the corpses for ammo and anything salvageable like those pieces of Kevlar and that plastic looking armor the NRSC troopers were using.   

And I know there has to be something interesting that we can use the tracks off of the small tanks and those sling blades for, my imagination just doesn’t want to spit it out right now.  The only thing I can come up with would be to reinforce the main road here in Sanctuary … the asphalt and concrete is completely gone in areas now leaving only stretches of eroding limerock.  Or possibly to prevent erosion along the edges of the canals. 

Speaking of being innovative ...  It’s going to take a major amount of work but David thinks he has come up with a way to ensure a steady supply of renewable food here in Sanctuary requiring very little long term work on our part.  At the bottom of one of the canals that were included into Sanctuary on the last Wall expansion is a spring.  The spring doesn’t have much volume but even during the hottest and driest summer there is a section that always has standing water that is about five feet deep. 

David thinks that while the water is as low as it is right now would be a good time to dredge out the canal a little better and then shore the embankment with broken concrete, etc.  The dredged out dirt will go to fill in the huge raised garden that I started.  Then once we get more rain and the newly deepened canal fills up, we can catch fish from water sources outside of Sanctuary and start our own “fish farm” as it were.   

David thinks that we can definitely have a healthy catfish population but he’s suggesting we try and put fish in all of the ponds and canals.  No gators should be able to enter Sanctuary … we managed to find and close the underwater gap in that one canal; it was an old storm drain that became exposed as the canal has dried up.  If we can really make this work we can have bass, gar, bowfin, sunfish, bluegill, and crappie. 

We’ll have a year up on Aldea … everyone talks like it is still there so I guess that’s what we’ll assume unless we find out otherwise … for the garden and we have our own citrus grove and wild fruit grove.  But Aldea will have access to the river for power and transportation.  I can see how the two communities could work hand-in-hand.   Sanctuary would grow the majority of the crops and fruit and Aldea would be a strategic and trading center.  There would be some things that would remain a specialty of Sanctuary and some things that would become a specialty of Aldea. 

Initially everything for Aldea would need to come from Sanctuary.  It’s going to take time and a lot of effort for them to arrange the “living quarters” the way Matlock and Glenn are talking about.  But eventually Aldea will be ready to be more self-sufficient and will also have something to trade back to Sanctuary.  And keeping our eggs from being all in one basket makes good strategic sense as well. 

Glenn and Saen said that it would be easier to have rice paddies over at Aldea as the area was situated better for that sort of thing.  The two areas we were talking about putting the rice paddies just aren’t going to work.  Maybe eventually we can engineer something but not right now.  And they are going to have mosquito issues over there anyway so I guess a rice paddy isn’t going to make that much of a difference in that respect.  And, the Hillsborough River, even when it gets low, still continues to flow in that area and you need water for rice paddies.  And they need to get it in the ground this month or they’ve missed the season. 

Ummmm … one food subject leads off into another.  Pulled my first Ruby Queen beets.  They aren’t as big as I had hoped for but they were good.  I know not everyone likes beets but man are they great energy food.  Well, I cooked the small batch and turned them into pickled beets to go with our lunch of rice and beans.  Betty was so nice, she volunteered to can the rest of the beets that were ready for harvest.  She’s teaching anyone that wants to learn out to pressure can.  All the women and girls were there and a couple of the guys did it as well.  I think they were just bored and looking for something new to try. 

The other things that I managed to harvest today are some of the blood oranges, some of the Valencia oranges, some calamondin, and some key limes.  The calamondin is a small orange but it is really high in acid.  You don’t eat it fresh unless you want your face to fall in.   I expected Saen to come up with some outrageously good recipe to use the calamondin in … they get used a lot is Asian cooking apparently … but she wasn’t feeling very well and Glenn got all fussy and put her to bed early.  As feisty as Saen is it is easy to forget just how small a woman she really is.   

Tomorrow – for fun mind you since it is supposed to be a rest day – I’m going to make a couple of calamondin pies.  I’ll save the leftover scraps (peel and pulp) and add it to a batch of calamondin marmalade that I want to make also. 

We also need to start preserving more of the loquats. This is the last month for them and they are starting to get so ripe they are falling from the trees.  I’m saving all the seeds and I’ve got a bunch going already so hopefully they will propagate.  I’m thinking that at some point it might be a good trade idea to have fruit tree and bush seedlings on hand.  People are going to want to grow their own food sooner rather than later and a tree or bush that they don’t have to propagate year in and year out would be a labor saving item. 

And when I was weeding around the perimeter of the gardens I found some Florida betony.  The betony is a type of wild radish and went really well with some other wild greens that I found.  James said the fresh “salad” at dinner looked kind of like what he used to dump out of the lawn mower bag.  It was mostly made up of all wild stuff … betony, dandelion, rose petals, parsley, chives, tarragon leaves, mint leaves, some basil, fennel, and a little bit of arugula out of the greenhouse.  The salad dressing was pretty Spartan as well … white wine vinegar, honey, mustard, salt and pepper, and olive oil. 

I’d given a lot to have seen everyone’s face when they saw what was on the menu but I was too tired.  Scott did bring me a tray with some dinner on it and the salad actually tasted pretty good even if it was a little more “peppery” than I normally eat it.  The dressing could have done with more honey and less vinegar as well but then I like my dressings on the sweet side. 

Well, I think my soak is wearing off and the sore is coming back.  I’m going to take another Tylenol and crawl in bed.  I saw some lightning off to the north but I think it is only heat lightning.  I pray we get some rain soon.   Maybe tomorrow the zombie population will be down far enough that some of the men can go out and start collecting ammo and stuff that is lying around.  I don’t think they will find as much as they hope but anything will be more than what we have right now.   


Day 216 (Sunday) – March 4 

There are still a lot of zombies in the area but they are mostly shamblers; the real dregs of the hive.  The ones that are left are still dangerous but many of them are on the tail end of decomposition and don’t seem to have enough together to pick up whatever signal that is driving their group dynamics.  These zombies are definitely just moving west because they are sort of being pulled that way, like a leaf floating on top of a current.  The leaf is being taken by the current; the leaf doesn’t take advantage of the current. 

Well, that’s about as good an explanation as I can come up with anyway.  We are still very careful however and a good thing too.  The guys ran into one today that acted almost feral.  It looked pretty fresh, especially compared to the shamblers in the area; however, it wasn’t an NRSC trooper.  It may have been from some survivor group.  Who knows?   

After a lot of discussion we don’t think it was one of the Hunters that Jamie told us about.  This thing wasn’t single minded enough.  And I don’t really think it was cognizant but it sure did mimic that pretty well.   

Charlene said she had seen some similar to this back near the beginning of the outbreak.  She said that people that were bitten outright turned pretty quickly; however, some people that caught NRS from some other way like through a hang nail or small scratch turned very slowly.  One guy she remembered turned so slowly they almost didn’t realize what was happening until after he’d stopped eating rations doled out by the Red Cross and had taken to eating animals out in the palmetto stands where no one could see what he was doing.  He mimicked humanity until the day he stopped talking and lured a child out to the palmetto stand instead of an animal.   

That gave us a lot to think about and even more reason to be careful as we started scavenging through what we could find. 

I never puked as I was going through the corpses pockets but it was close a time or two.  I kept remembering that scene from The Stand and told myself over and over that they were only cord wood.  We have a lot of guns – mostly AR-15s and according to Matlock some variations on the Mossberg 500 and the Remington 870 – but not nearly as much ammo as the guys had hoped.  Many of the guns are jammed or gunked up and will mostly have to be cannibalized for parts.  In the back of a couple of the armored vehicles we did find some flame throwers believe it or not but only a quarter of them actually had any fuel.  I guess they were part of their regular equipment but they didn’t want them using them on this mission … or fuel is getting scarce and they never got resupplied. 

Glenn is sure he can definitely fix the armored vehicle that tried to ram Sanctuary’s Wall.  There really wasn’t anything wrong with it besides that it was stuck.  He is also fairly certain that he can rebuild at least one, possibly two, of the other armored vehicles if we can find enough spare parts from the ones that we blew up.  They may not be pretty, but they’ll move. 

The little tanks are all a washout.  I wasn’t the only one thinking of using the tracks as erosion preventers.  Matlock wants to reinforce some of the steeper embankments along the river side of Aldea.  Scott is getting a bit irritable that Matlock seems to think about how all of the stuff will benefit Aldea and doesn’t seem to realize that it would be more equitable to split things between the two compounds.  I know Matt is excited about Aldea’s potential … but its potential still rests in what Sanctuary can provide as far as food and provisions for the first few months anyway.  We might be taking it wrong – his way of saying things – I haven’t decided yet.  I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt until he proves me wrong.  I don’t’ even think it is intentional … more like an over excited kid who wants, wants, wants without realizing how that sounds or the consequences.  ‘Course Matlock is no kid and it would probably hack him off if he read this … but in my mind the principle appears the same.  I want Aldea to be a success, just not at the expense of Sanctuary.  We are going to have to learn to meet somewhere near the middle on this issue before it becomes a problem. 

Dix is feeling better today but you can tell he is still pretty rung out.  Samuel pretty much stuck close to his dad all day long but would also run back to his mom … who isn’t feeling all that great either … and my Sarah told me that he is really upset and keeps thinking that he might lose one or both of his parents.  Then she looked at me with her huge brown eyes and I knew she was asking for some reassurance about Scott and I.  I gave it to her.  How could I have done otherwise?  But she is getting old enough that she is seeing that reality is a far cry from the way it used to be.  All we can do is plan and work for tomorrow but live in today and just do the best we can. 

You know I can’t remember now when the last time I mentioned baby Kai or the other pregnant ladies.  Kai is just the cutest little thing.  He’s ten days old and boy you should hear the little piggy go to town when he is nursing.  And he has a burp that rattles windows.  I always understood that to be a good thing as babies that can really burp are less likely to be colicky.  Kitty had this dainty little burp that I thought was cute at first until I realized the consequences of her not getting rid of all the air in her belly.  Terra and Nick moved back to their place but poor Nick looks like he isn’t getting much sleep.  Kai definitely has his own schedule and it doesn’t have anything to do with his parents’ schedule. 

Rhonda is eight months pregnant.  Pregnancy seems to suit her.  She is just really blooming and watching her the last couple of months have made me miss pregnancy a little … a little … a very little.  She’s due the middle of April and unless something changes between now and then she should be fine although she has admitted to being scared about going through the labor itself.   I told her I went through labor five times.  Painkillers or no painkillers it hurts but when you are finished … it’s like the real memory of the pain goes away.  You can remember that it hurt but not the actual feeling of pain itself. 

Becky is now just out of the first trimester at 13 weeks.  She still upchucks in the mornings … but not every morning and not as badly.  She too is the picture of health though I think she is stressing about moving to Aldea.  She’s keeping it to herself for the most part though she and Tina talk a lot.  Just a side note that Tina and Dante’ are opting to move to Aldea now.  I think they are trying to escape Laura’s memory.  I’m not in their shoes so I won’t judge them but in my own opinion you don’t deal with grief by leaving it behind; it’s going to follow you no matter where you go.  But on the other hand, maybe a fresh start and a lot of hard work will be the best way for them to deal with things. 

Patricia is the one that I’m really getting worried about.  She’s 27 weeks pregnant.  According to the pregnancy books we’ve been able to find that qualifies her for her third trimester which is really wonderful considering how rough things have been for her.  If the baby was born now it’s supposed to have an 85% chance of survival.  The closer to 40 weeks she gets the better.  Rose told me that Ski would be happy if she made it to 36 or 38 weeks.  We’ve given Patricia all the supplemental nutritional shakes that we can find.  Ski also has her on pre-natal vitamins but she is still pale and anemic looking.  Her blood pressure also is erratic and she may have gestational diabetes, we aren’t sure.  Ski worried about the baby being too big for a nature birth, we simply are not set up for a C-Section operation.  All we can do is what we are doing now and that includes praying.  Dix tries not to interfere in Patricia and Jack’s relationship but I can tell he is worried too. 

Next to that my injury seems petty.  I’m still sore but I limbered up about mid-morning and the twinges only came when I over-stretched my back reaching for something or bending down.  That stupid knot is still in the way of my bra strap and Waleski said it could take up to two weeks for it to go down.  And sweat rolling down my back stings like crazy but even with all that I’m still grateful it’s not any worse. 

I took an early morning shift on the “reclamation” crew.  That’s when we went out and started picking up all the fallen NRSC gear.  While I was out I also made note of all the plant destruction in the area.  Scott took his turn with me and we worked as a team.  He’s pretty upset that he didn’t put more effort into dismantling the houses outside of Sanctuary sooner.  What the Big Horde didn’t destroy the combination of the Hive and the NRSC armored vehicles did.   

All the destruction has also stirred up the varmints that had taken refuge in those buildings.  Samuel who had asked if he could be on our team was kept pretty busy with his slingshot and spear killing rats and mice.  We also saw a few gnawed places on the Wall where it looks like some rodents have been trying get inside for protection.  I guess tomorrow I will have the kids go through the steel storage containers to see if we have any more unwelcome visitors.  We already set traps and poison but that only manages the population, it doesn’t get rid of them all together.   

Angus came over and he and Scott broke off to talk about things.  I was right.  Angus will float between Aldea and Sanctuary and his firehouse.  He also wants to do some more traveling.  Jim will likely go with him.  But the main thing they talked about what how to deal with all of this destruction.  We need to get rid of this stuff or it really will become a breeding ground for troublesome pests.  

The houses that were primarily frame will be fairly easy to dispose of.  They’ll use a grapple rake and put the debris in our dump truck and then haul it down to the body dump area.  When the rainy season comes back – assuming it does – a controlled burn will take care of the debris and the decomposing bodies up there.   The only hitch is if this latest fire has already burned that area over.  There is a good chance that it has. 

The alternative will be to dig a pit; not easy here in this area with our high water table.  Or, perhaps find a handy dandy sink hole.  We could dump a little bit of stuff in there at a time and do a controlled burn that way.  A concrete block building however is going to require more work.  Some of the blocks may be able to be salvaged and set aside for later construction project.  Any bricks … and there won’t be many of those around here as most are fake stucco work that just look like bricks … will be salvaged as well.  Some of the broken blocks can be used on the banks of the canals to prevent erosion once the dredging takes place.  I have a feeling though this is going to be a huge, ongoing process of going through the debris.   

Angus and Scott figure that we can drag a bunch of those construction dumpsters and line them up near by.  All the burnables will go into one.  All the glass and broken porcelain into another.  Shingles and roofing material into another.  Metal into another.  Fiberglass into yet another.  Etc. Etc. Etc.  Anything that was actually salvageable would be put in a completely different location so that it wasn’t confused with the useless debris. 

The Big Fire, the Big Horde, the Raid on Sanctuary, the Hive, the NRSC vehicles, the new Big Fire started by the NRCS, and not to mention our own construction projects have all changed the map of this area.  Now I know what people must have felt like during wars when they tried to find their home but only saw rubble no matter where they looked.  Nothing looks as you remember it.  Points of reference are gone.  In just seven short months US41 has been obliterated in places and the railroad tracks that have lain in the same location for nearly a century are just gone.  The drought has taken its own toll and many ponds and lakes are merely shadows of their former glory. 

Trees are dying.  Yards are overgrown and becoming a tropical tangle.  Florida is returning to its natural state.  Without some cattle to graze them over, palmettos will inherit the earth … or at least our part of the state. 

And we are running low on fuel to run all the heavy equipment needed to get this work done.  I’m worried we are going to be down to oxen and horses before too much longer.  That will really limit the distance we’ll be able to travel on any given day. 

But it’s not my responsibility to come up with a solution for that particular problem and I decided after lunch to get on to the canning and such that I had promised myself that I would do. 

First I made the calamondin pies.  I had several cans of sweetened condensed milk that looked like they wouldn’t last much longer so I used the, along with half a cup of calamondin juice per can and then added some dream whip that I had mixed up … sort of like a poor man’s Cool Whip.  I dumped the filling into some simple pat-in-the-pan pie crusts and then moved them into the Cooler until dinner time. 

I didn’t feel like a big meal for lunch so I just ate some of the ever present fruit salad and a muffin.  Everyone else had a serving of the vegetable soup that Reba and Betty had been simmering most of the morning.   

After lunch I started making the Calamondin Marmalade.  I say “start” because it has to set in the Cooler overnight to bring out the natural pectin.  Basically I washed and de-seeded … then thinly sliced … about 40 or 50 calamondin fruit.  For every cup of sliced fruit (I used my handy dandy mandolin slicer to spare my hands and save a lot of time) I added three-quarter cups of water.  Tomorrow, after everything has soaked for the night I’ll drain the fruit and then measure the stock.  For every cup of liquid stock I’ll add a cup of sugar.  I’ll bring it all to the soft crack candy stage (220 F) and then put it into jars and seal it. 

I really hope that our honey harvest and the sugar cane make.  I moved all the sugar I ran across into five gallon buckets a long time ago and we’ve been pretty good about watching how much is used.  We also use brown sugar and other non-white granulated sugars when at all possible for sweetening.  I still have about fifteen five-gallon buckets of white sugar left but that won’t last forever; especially not as we begin preserving more of the harvests that hopefully will come in.  I found that about fifty pounds of sugar will fit in a five gallon bucket but that really isn’t much sugar for the number of people we have and all the preserving that we need to do in the coming months.  I wonder if they’ll get any sugar production going down south?  And if so, what will they trade it for?  I wonder what people in other locations are using for sweetening? 

Well, tomorrow is laundry day so I need to make an early night of it.  I might have some more harvesting to do as well.  The broccoli looks like it is just about ready.  Yum.  I dreamed of broccoli and cheese the other night.  Hope everyone’s dream are as pleasant on this night. 


Day 217 (Monday) – March 5 

Ha!  Really good news for a change.  We’ve had some bad news as well but at least more good than bad this time around. 

Johnnie and Bubby described it best when they said that “Uncle Angus, Mr. Jim and Mr. Glenn were gonna get in trouble if they don’t stop being so bouncy!”   

The three men woke in what I would call an almost claustrophobic mood.  They were bound and determined to go check on OSAG and Aldea.  They could have had a convoy except everyone knew it made more sense for a small party to go check things out first before we split our forces.  It’s still possible that there are some NRSC troopers in the area or that raiders are going to move into the area to try and take advantage of the mess the Hive and the NRSC left in their wake.   It’s also possible that the folks representing the regular military were lying for strategic lessons.  Caution is a much more common commodity than trust is these days. 

They took Juicer and left the armored vehicles here because they still need to place some basic parts that were ripped up by the zombies when they went into a feeding frenzy.  It’s a good thing they did take Juicer actually.  When they got over to OSAG’s compound at the university they found a highly armed bunch of men (and women) who were waiting for the NRSC to show up and make good on their threat.  Seems OSAG had lost some of their connections and such … Lord knows I haven’t got a clue exactly what the damage was but the damage was enough to prevent them from both reception and broadcast for a bit.  Repairs are underway and they’ll be back on the air ASAP now that they’ve received the intel we had to share with them.   Hopefully with Steve’s big set up and connections we’ll get a better idea of how things stand around the state; and maybe even further afield. 

OSAG weathered the Hive’s appearance fairly well but not without some damage.  Like us they are hurt but not incapacitated.  I hope to get a full report later but for now it was great just to know that their group is still amongst the land of the living. 

Aldea … it’s there.  There has been some significant damage in the front parts of the park but that was probably inevitable as Matlock and that group started moving stuff in and out.  Actually the main part of the park still is in good repair because of the way it is situated.  I guess the NRSC didn’t want to worry about bogging down or getting cornered on a peninsula.  The bridge over the Hillsborough River near there is pretty beat up.  All of the NRSC would have had to travel across that bridge as they headed west.  They found a couple of explosives on the bridge but were able to disarm them without mishap.  They left the C4 at Aldea in one of the steel storage containers that sits outside of their main compound area just to be on the safe side for a bit. 

Glenn thinks the bridge is still in reasonably decent shape.  He said he drove over worse in the Middle East during worse conditions but they are still talking about how they can reinforce it without the river compromising any of their efforts.  That may be a long term problem for that location and for all east/west traveling through that area. 

The men came back in the early afternoon.  After a little bit of grumping by all concerned it was decided that before they begin to work on Aldea, Sanctuary’s outside perimeter will be cleaned up, any houses that remain within 100 yards of Sanctuary’s exterior will be pulled down, and the infected corpses within 200 yards of Sanctuary’s exterior will be dealt with.  Some estimate that all of that can be accomplished in a week … that doesn’t include dealing with the rubble in my opinion … and that after that all those that will be building Aldea will shift while those of us who will remain in Sanctuary will continue to focus on the continuity of this compound. 

Some of those that have volunteered to help set up Aldea haven’t decided whether to stay there permanently but everyone seems to agree that a second secured and viable location is a good idea strategically.  Lettuce Lake Park … now known as Aldea … has 240 acres within its boundaries.  That’s a lot of territory to patrol and protect.  They’ll probably have to pull back and decide precisely how much they think they can manage at first and work from there; similar to how we started here in Sanctuary.  One of the pieces of bad news is that there are a lot of loose shamblers all through the woods near Aldea.  There’s going to be some serious work and many cautious days until they get that area completely cleared. 

Scott was busy today marking items that he wanted to salvage on houses both inside and outside Sanctuary.  There really isn’t that much worth salvaging outside Sanctuary.  I don’t know which was more destructive the Hive or the NRSC.  One of the few items that we can count on salvaging from nearly every house was a bathtub or two.  Scott intends to – temporarily maybe – line these tubs up to placed where the houses within Sanctuary are pulled down to create a whole section of sturdy plant containers.  They already have nice drains in them so all we’ll need to do is to fill them with compost and sand and we’ll probably have a good container for tomatoes or potatoes or even a place I can start some small fruit trees. 

I went with him for a bit outside the Wall.  I didn’t feel safe like I used to.  There were shamblers … and unsanitized but immobile zombies … all over the place.  Most of the mobile shamblers were relatively harmless but we didn’t take any unnecessary chances.  Any that came too near or got too curious were dispatched by arrow, slingshot, ax, machete, spear, pike, or some other “silent” weapon.  In one case I used the sharp edge of my shovel to decapitate a zombie and Scott sanitized it with his spike and mallet.

If you are wondering why I was out there with a shovel it is because I was trying to save as many useful plants and trees as I could.  I honestly didn’t find much except for some banana rhizomes that I’m really hoping survive the transplantation process.  I found more ornamentals than I did food plants.  Scott got a little irritated with that after a bit but I just don’t know when I’ll have a similar chance to get these plants.  The dozer is going to tear up stuff quite a bit, and probably finish off what the Hive and those big armored vehicles started. 

When I wasn’t with Scott I was working in our gardens and there was more ready for picking than I expected.  All the produce is going to catch me off guard and I’m not going to be able to keep up.  Today I brought in the first of the broccoli, “baby” carrots, the bok choy, and some more turnips.  We made a nice stir fry for dinner and used some of the chopped broccoli and bok choy to make it even more filling. 

All the plants are smaller than I had anticipated.  I don’t know for sure whether it is the variety, the drought, or something I’m doing.  I hope that I’ve planted enough.  It’s not like I can run to the corner market if we run out of something. 

Mr. Morris says he plans on harvesting the first batch of honey from our hives tomorrow.  That should be exciting.  As many hives as we have – a dozen of those bee hotels or whatever you call them – Mr. Morris thinks we should easily get a dozen pounds of honey from the first harvest.  After that we should get quite a bit more as they love all the blooming going on in the gardens and the left over blooms from the citrus trees.  I’ve heard more talk of mead and a “liquid gold trade item” than I care to think about right now.  They’d best make sure that we have enough for our own use for the year before they start using it for anything else.   

There were a few spits of rain tonight but you could have driven Juicer between the drops.  Lots of heat lightning but I don’t think anything will come of it.  When or when are we going to get some rain? 

Day 218 (Tuesday) – March 6 

Barring the occasional sanitation job we are nearly back to normal.  Normal … what is that anyway?  It’s not the “normal” of pre-NRS days.  “Normal” for us is quite a bit different since the world came crashing down.  Everyone has their own definition of normal I guess.  All I know is that no one died, no one is sick, food was plentiful, and constructive work got accomplished … and we are slowly returning to a regular schedule. 

The cows and goats and other animals were allowed to return the pasture yesterday and by this evening we could already tell that at least some of them were happy about it because the milk production for both the cows and goats has gone up.  It’s not where it was pre-Hive but that will come in time hopefully.   As soon as it does Reba wants to start making hard cheeses.  We’ve only been making soft cheeses that get used up the same day but now with the Cooler she thinks she’s figured out a way to make cheddar, and maybe parmesan/romano and a few others that I’ve heard mentioned before.  She said we’ll have to make sure and keep scavenging for paraffin and unscented wax so that we can wax the cheese blocks and wheels as the cheeses get made. 

Reba has this pretty well laid out and I can’t wait for her to start.  It’s been so long since I’ve tasted fresh cheddar.  Powdered cheese or the soft cheeses we have been making like queso blanco or queso fresco are useful and even taste good; but there is nothing quite as grand as a sliced of well-aged cheddar.  I think it is very important that all of the girls take the time to learn this task.  Specialization may have proved more efficient pre-NRS but it isn’t any longer.  We all need to know how to do as much as possible so in case we lose someone we don’t lose the art or craft in question. 

Today’s excitement came from bees.  That’s right.  Honey producing bees to be more precise … like mini cattle they are worth herding and produce a great deal of value that returns the work and effort you put into them at least tenfold. 

First thing this morning as some of the men had started to pull down one of the houses outside of Sanctuary they ran into a large feral hive living between the siding and the interior frame of one of the buildings.  Kevin was out there and immediately called his father to come see.  Apparently they had both been hoping for this … finding more bees … and having it occur so close to Sanctuary was a plus. 

They had prepared by building something called a beevac … basically a kind of contraption that vacuums up the feral bees before you began to dismantle the hive and locate the queen and thus saving some rather painful interaction with their species.  After you’ve vacuumed up the bees you can transfer them to regular housing for captured and domesticated bees thus increasing the number of bees you have and the amount of honey you can collect. 

Well, a lot of the wax in this feral hive was quite dark.  Usually, according to Mr. Morris anyway, this means that the honeycombs are old.  Kevin added that you can also get dark wax because bees are storing dark honey in the cells.  I’ll leave all the really technical stuff to them or to those that want to read all of their notes in the library.  It’s actually cool, I just don’t have that much experience with it yet. 

What I do know is that after vacuuming the bees – which required extra guards because the little vac motor attracted some zombies that subsequently had to be sanitized – they collected four five-gallon buckets of the wax.  Since the comb wasn’t in frames they had to use the crush and strain method and so far – out of those four buckets – they’ve gotten over a hundred pounds of honey, but it’s pretty dark stuff.  The leftover wax will be washed and then put in a solar beeswax melter and then solidified into blocks for later use. 

To test the bee hives that we had scavenged from over in the Keystone area, Mr. Morris decided to harvest the three frames that were fully capped and put them in the frame extractor.  Basically that is a contraption that you set the frames down into that you have opened the “caps” (then ends of the honey cells) and then you manually spin the honey out of the frames.  It uses plain old centrifugal force to get the honey from the frames.  Out of three frames he was able to get just over twelve pounds.  Not too shabby considering we have twelve bee hives.   

Each of those twelve hives are made up of a bottom piece called a hive stand.  Next comes a board that is used for ventilation.  Then comes a box that is like a nursery.  Mr. Morris called this a brood box which is where the queen bee lives.  Then there is another board called a “queen excluder” that keeps the queen from going any place else but the brood box.  On top of that “supers” that hold the frames.  Each super will hold ten frames.  The frame is what you collect honey from.  There are three supers for each of our hives although Mr. Morris says you can put more if the hive is large and/or produces a lot of extra honey.   The captured feral hive will give us a thirteenth hive (and possibly fourteenth if they swarm). 

If nothing goes wrong and the bees don’t starve … which I don’t expect they will as they’ve got our organic gardens and the orchard and other fruit trees to get their food from … I think we will get a significant amount of honey.  Let’s see, if four frames gave us 12 pounds of honey means that each frame should give us three pounds of honey at least once.  We have twelve domesticated hives with three supers with ten frames each … three times ten equals thirty frames times for each of twelve hives which means 360 frames total.  If each frame yields three pounds of honey then that’s 1080 pounds of honey.  That’s absolutely incredible.   

I don’t think I’ll be quite so crabby about the whole mead experiment thing if we really can get that much honey.  And if we get more than one harvest per frame we’ll be swimming in the stuff.  Of course, if we don’t get any rain … or we get too much … or any number of other things we could go way down on honey production.  I think I like gardening better. 

The mead guys are all in hog heaven.  Tomorrow they are going to make their first batch of mead.   I got the puppy dog eyes from Scott and Angus and even Dix … the big goofball … played along asked what I’d take in trade for “procuring” the stuff they need from my magical storehouse.  Yeah, like I wasn’t actually going to take them up on that.  Heck lot they know.  So tomorrow they are going to cut back some hanging branches from an oak tree that is beginning to shade one end of the big garden and I’ll “procure” their stuff for them. 

They’ll get eighteen pounds of honey from Mr. Morris and I’ll get everything else that includes:  two cups of maple syrup; 32 ounces of lemon or lime juice; 12 lemons and 8 limes; and then dried citrus peel of orange, lemon, and tangerine; and then they need 2 oz. of coriander seeds.  I sure hope their experiment is worth it because they are taking up quite a bit of the last of my fresh lemons and limes.  And I hope they have some other mead recipes because we might not have as much citrus fruit next year if we don’t get some rain. 

I’ve had the kids to start bringing buckets of water for the trees from the canals and ponds but as low as they are that won’t last forever either.  I’ve already noted two orange trees and one grapefruit tree that needs to come down and be replaced with seedlings.  I don’t think it’s that they’ve outlived their usefulness; orange trees can live up to 100 years.  I think the stress of the drought is getting to them.  If we don’t have some decent and consistent rain soon we’ll start losing more trees, probably some of the oaks as well and that will be really bad.  What we don’t need are weak trees once the hurricane season starts.  Ugh. 

The only thing that we’ve been washing lately are our under things.  Everything else we’ve just been shaking out and hanging to air out.  Some of the younger guys have been hanging their t-shirts on the clothes line before they go to bed and then they take them off after they’ve dried from the morning’s dew.  I’d use canal water but it is really muddy right now because it is so low and has lots of algae in it. 

Collecting material left behind by the NRSC continues but our spotters saw that we aren’t the only ones doing it.  We saw that peddler group that Tasha joined … or at least they were using one of the RVs from that group because the methane collector on top is pretty distinctive … to the north along what used to be US41.  I don’t know what you would call it now, but it sure doesn’t qualify as a highway any more.  Dix took a contingent of armed men to meet them and see what was up. 

They were actually on their way to see us.  The head of the clan … Mr. something or other, I never was allowed close enough to confirm whether it was Fred to Ted … had a grandson who had been burned pretty badly on his back by a piece of floating debris as they were escaping north from the fire.  The fact that they were all the way over in Tarpon Springs when this occurred was too reminiscent of when Scott was gone back months ago and brought my parents’ stuff to me.  It also brought back the suspicion that the peddlers were connected to the raiders. 

Dix must have thought the same thing but the Clan Leader said that there weren’t too many people over that way anymore what with all the fuel running out and the military sitting off the coast in their big fleet.  There wasn’t anything left of it at all now that the fire had run clear all the way to the Gulf.    They had run all the way north to Hernando Beach before the flames stopped following them.  They had risked a lot to come back this way because Tasha told them with proper incentive Waleski would probably treat the boy’s burns. 

I heard from Rose that apparently Tasha has moved up quite a bit in the hierarchy.  She’s made them clean up their living quarters and while it still isn’t what you would call immaculate it’s a lot better than what it was.  She told me Tasha looks a lot harder than when she was with us but I’m not sure how to measure what she was saying; Rose, for all she has experienced the last several months is still a bit idealistic and inexperienced. 

The boy’s burn had begun to heal but there were a couple of quarter size and silver dollar size places that must have been second or third degree.  He was passed the worst pain stage so Waleski said ibuprofen was adequate for that except for Vicodin he gave the boy for when he was cleaning the burns.  After the places were completely cleaned he covered them with silvadene which is a type of topical antibiotic for severe burns.   He also gave the boy a tetanus shot since the grandfather didn’t know when he had last had one.  He also prescribed Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and Omega-3 tablets all of which the peddlers have in their wares. 

I was interested to hear that he also fussed at them a bit about not feeding the boy enough, reminding them that his body was working harder to mend itself so he needed extra calories, not fewer.  He also told them no caffeine but fruit juices or plain water only and several times a day, not just at meal times.  Dehydration is a big problems with burns, but I hadn’t realized how much of a problem until Waleski pointed it out.  The prognosis for the boy is pretty good since he survived this long so long as they can keep infection from setting in.   

Nothing else was even as mildly exciting as the bees or the peddlers.  The peddlers are on their way but not before turning over a few of crates of ammo they had collected from the NRSC dead.  Their head man refused to leave owing us anything though we would have treated his grandson for good will.  I guess that might be a good thing in the long run.  I don’t think they are any less trustworthy than some of the folks we’ve met, but they are shifty.  And it’s also set a precedent.  Hopefully people won’t line up outside of Sanctuary looking for free handouts as far as medical treatment go, but the word should also get out that we do everything within our skills to do a good job. 

I think our greens are going to start coming in hand over fist pretty soon.  I was able to cut the first new leaves on the mustard greens and tomorrow I’ll be able to harvest the first of the loose leaf lettuce varieties.   Pretty soon the eggplants should start coming in as well.  By the end of the month we’ll also have fresh tomatoes and fresh carrots.   

At dinner I whipped up some cinnamon honey butter for folks to spread on their biscuits.  And tomorrow I think I’ll take some of the dark honey from the feral hive and make a chocolate honey cake and then cover it with chocolate honey frosting.  Later in the week if I have time I’ll also make honey cheese cake.   My mouth is watering just thinking about all the stuff I can do now that I won’t have to ration the sweetening quite as much as I have recently.   

Wish we could fix the wheat flour shortage as easily.  I’ve got some bags of seeds that I’ve found while scavenging that I’ve set aside to try and address this issue but I don’t know with what kind of success.  Some of what I will do is stretch out supply of wheat flour out by adding in some bean flour.  We’ve got enough dried beans to choke a horse with; amazing how many people kept bags of them around but never seemed to actually use them.  The ones that are too old to soak and cook will get ground up into a fine powder and added to my bread mixes. 

Corn I’ve probably written about ad nauseum.  I’ll take some of the oats and from the feed store and try and plant some oats towards the middle of September.  I may not get much the first year.  If the crop isn’t worth anything I figure I can still give it to the animals as forage.  I threw some millet in a quarter-acre area and its coming up but is suffering from the drought and might dry out before it makes any heads of grain.   

Next week rice will go in at Aldea.  They’ve already got the area marked off.  Rice for so many things including rice flour.  Next month I’ll plant another quarter to half acre of sorghum, depends on whether we get any rain or not.  Beginning of May is when I’ll put the soybeans in the ground.  Middle of November I’ll do my best to grow my own wheat and lastly the beginning of December I’ll try my hand at rye.  I wish I had known I could plant wheat and rye earlier; now I’m a whole year behind.  Now I’m beginning to worry that we may have to eat our seeds before we can put them in the ground. 

I just have to keep remembering that we have a plan, we are moving forward, and no matter how hard I push my foot down on the imaginary accelerator on the passenger side I’m not going to get time to move any faster. 

Day 219 (Wednesday) – March 7 

Talk about a depressing Water Day.  Still no rain.  I’m really getting worried about the gardens.  You can tell … wait …  

OK, rather than erase all of that or waste the paper I’ll just start over with a new paragraph.  It’s raining.  Great big dry weather drops and they are making a heck of a lot of noise on the lanai roof and the skylight in the kitchen.  We all stopped what we were doing and ran outside to set up the rain barrels and to make sure the other run off pipes and flashing are directed into the holding tanks.  The pounding is so loud I can barely hear myself think but I haven’t heard anything so pretty in a long, long time. 

I had started out saying that this was a depressing Water Day because we didn’t have any water to process.  Many of the in-ground pools still inside Sanctuary are 90% empty.  The pools outside are still full of debris or putrefied corpses.  The ones outside the Wall also have a few gators in them as well.  Tell me that don’t make trying to clean things up interesting.   

Breakfast was a little strange.  I took the remainder of all of our packaged muffin mixes and turned them into pancakes.  The mixes we have left over from pre-NRS commercial products are beginning to get pretty old.  Not too bad but the first couple of pancakes I tried to make wouldn’t rise so I had to stop and mix in some of the friendship bread starter that I always keep going.  They did pretty well after that but the only thing was that no two of them really tasted the same.  They were all jumbled up.  The ones the kids really seemed to like was when I mixed the strawberry muffin mix with the chocolate chip muffin mix.  It was so rich it made me want to gag but the kids couldn’t inhale them fast enough.    Several of the adults like the banana nut muffin mix with the chocolate chip muffin mix; again pretty rich, but with fresh whipped cream courtesy of Reba not too shabby if I do say so myself.  I like how the spice muffin mix and the blackberry muffin mix went together.  All the other combinations just tasted like some kind of wild razzleberry to me. 

After breakfast I went and harvested a bunch of looseleaf lettuce and for my part of lunch I made a pretty killer mandarin orange salad.  I used some canned mandarin oranges and they weren’t half bad even though a couple of them tasted like they might have sat in the can a tad longer than their “best by” date said they should have.   

David had taken some of the boys and gone to check out the ponds that we had been fishing from.  Some had dried up and you could see the carcasses of a few fish though most had undoubtedly been eaten by the local wildlife.  The main lake however still had a decent amount of water in it though it was quite low.  It was pretty easy to run a net and bring in more than we could eat at lunch.  The best looking of the extra fish were carefully put into a cooler of water and brought back to Sanctuary and released into the deepest water we still had in one of the ponds.  

After lunch David started dredging out the long canal that is now a central ecological and geographical feature within Sanctuary.  Parts of the canal were so dry that he could use the bobcat with no fear of bogging down.  That certainly won’t be true tomorrow if it continues to rain but at least he got one section done and the embankment stabilized with broken concrete blocks before this rain.   

David’s project wasn’t the only one going.  Everyone was working fast and furiously to clear the exterior perimeter of the Wall.  Angus used Juicer to haul away the corpses that had been stripped of everything useful and Glenn used the finally-repaired armored steam shovel type vehicle to push over the buildings after they had been stripped of everything usable.  There were only a couple of buildings that were still too solid for him to collapse and McElroy took care of those with the dozer.    Made a great bunch of noise too so we needed plenty of guards to take care of the infecteds when they decided to get a little too close or frisky. 

Infecteds weren’t the only thing that the noise attracted.  We had another brief visit from the military guys.  It was a small patrol group doing a little mop up.  I don’t know the specifics but Dix confirmed they weren’t AWOL or impersonators.  Seems a bunch of their meals were bad after opening.    They only wanted to trade for enough to get them to their extraction point which was a day and a half away.  They traded the intel that they had stashed another NRSC armored vehicle about a mile away with some NRSC gear and ammo still inside.  They also traded a radio part that Dix had needed to unscramble some of the NRSC broadcasts he could hear from the Central Zone.   

For that we traded them rice, cornmeal, fresh water, some honey, and some jerky.  We also gave them about a dozen real eggs.  You’d thought we’d handed them Solomon’s gold.  After that it was short work to get enough intel to update our maps – both local and national.  They didn’t give us anything that we couldn’t have eventually figured out but it was a lot faster than having to wait to decode everything we hear on the radio. 

Seems that Sanctuary and OSAG aren’t the only fortified compounds here in Florida.  Sanctuary seems to be several months ahead of most of them and has a more balanced set up.  Some of the compounds are strictly agrarian with 90% of their effort put into food production and/or harvest, including some of the coastal communities trying to make a living from the ocean or Gulf.  Some of the compounds focus 90% of their effort on security and rely heavily on scavenging or trade to acquire their food. 

Many of the compounds, no matter what their focus is, are still very closed off; kind of a “if you don’t already belong don’t even bother knocking on the door” mentality.   A few are open to communication but on a strictly limited basis, only on their terms, and only if you come to them first.  Even those compounds that are concentrated in certain areas tend to be hostile to too much interaction with other compounds even when it would make more sense to share the workload. 

For now I think we better hold off on the idea of building a loose confederation of communities.  I think the effort would be better put into first solidifying Sanctuary, Aldea, and OSAG (if they are interested) into points of a triangle of area that at least has some semblance of peace and stability to it.  Or at least into a good trading partnership that also lends a hand to each other in case of security needs.  Similar to the forts in the pioneering era of the US; one community’s trouble is offset by the help received by the other two communities.  It would also make us more formidable an opponent individually because any enemy would find themselves our common enemy.  They would have to deal, not just with the one community, but with three well-armed and well-trained communities.  That should make any raiders think twice. 

It’s not that the loose confederation of communities isn’t a good idea because it is.  I think the primary problem right now is that only seven months have passed since the fall and people are still finding their way.  There is still a lot of suspicion and shock out there.  As cruel as it may sound I think the chaff is still being winnowed from the wheat.  We’ll need to be flexible and adapt but we also need to guide the re-establishment of things so that the general framework we all agree on doesn’t become compromised. 

We also still have a lot of macro problems to face.  They’ve retreated but there is no way that we will be able to permanently escape all the political claptrap that is going on in the Central Zone.  Nor will we be able to escape potential fallout from other Quarantine Zones dumping their issues onto us. 

Speaking of dumping … one of the most shocking things that I’ve heard to date was that some of the Quarantine Zones are starting to dump their infecteds into the neighboring quarantine zones.  There are still some half-brains out there that seem to think that if you move the problem someplace else then it is no longer a problem.  In essence, if you can’t see it and can’t hear it then it must no longer exist.  Those ninnies need a dope slap upside the back of their heads.  Zombies have no concept of political lines.  A state line is a human concept.  What?  Do they expect a zombie dumped from Alabama into Georgia, or vice versa, to suddenly think, “Ooops, can’t go back that way anymore.  We can’t cross the state line.” 

That might explain why we are still seeing so many zombies after such a long period of time.  I know that the decomposition rate radically slows down in an NRS infected corpse but I would have thought that a lot of zombies would have perished over the harsh winter up north.  Maybe they don’t decompose during the winter but go into some type of suspended animation or hibernation or something.  Wouldn’t that be crazy to find out that zombies hibernate in the cold rather than die the second death? 

With no rain, the weeds aren’t growing very quickly.  Good mulch and careful group planting has also helped keep this problem to a minimum.  That doesn’t leave me with as much to do in the garden as I would have if the rain had been coming regularly.  This rain … that continues to fall by the bucketful … will change that.  It’ll also be like working in a sauna but I’ll grow used to it.  I do every year.  If the humidity picks up however we’ll need to watch everyone’s electrolytes.  I need to remember to see how much Gatorade and PowerAde we still have.  I know I’ve got a recipe around here some place that uses unsweetened Koolaid to make ORS (oral rehydration solution) which is a kinda sorta homemade sports drink.  Need to keep some ginger drink or lemonade handy as well.  The kids are going to dry out fast in the heat that is coming. 

Wowwee!  We are starting to get some pretty good winds in this stuff and quite a bit of thunder and lightning as well.  I’m going to have to sign off here and go help make sure everything is tied down really tight.  If we can’t handle a thunderstorm we are going to be in trouble come June when the hurricane season starts up.

Day 220 (Thursday) – March 8 

I’ve had a really bad headache all day long.  I think the rain last night must have stirred up as much dust as it settled.  The intermittent sprinkling that it’s done off and on the entire day didn’t do much for me either.  It was too wet to get much work done in comfort outside and too muggy inside to really get comfortable there either.   

I finally used one of the extra batteries that we keep charged and hooked it up to an oscillating floor fan just to keep the air stirred up.  This must be a cold front coming through but it’s hard to tell without the weather man to tell us what they see on the radar.  All I know is that the rain is cold but once it hits the ground all we do is get a smelly sauna steaming up. 

The gardens have perked up but the trees and water retention areas still need a considerable amount to make them truly healthy again.  I measured about an inch from the overnight rain and then about half that in all the rain we had during the day.  An inch and a half of rain won’t go far if things continue to warm up like they have been doing. 

One of Mischief’s pups died.  Austin says it looks like it got snake bit.  Scott took a look at it and he and Angus finally found the fang marks but they were really small.  Scott thinks it was a pigmy rattler.  I’ve noticed the kids were starting to go barefoot in the warm weather and I need to impress on them how bad an idea that is.  The snakes will be getting active again soon and so will all the other creepy crawlies that bite and pinch.  Parasitic worms will also become a problem if we aren’t careful. 

My Sarah and Samuel buried the puppy in the far corner of the pasture; deep enough that none of our animals would think about digging it up.  I feel bad but … and this is probably just horrible … but I can’t help but think about it being one less mouth to feed as well. 

The dogs are a real consideration for me.  They are working dogs.  They serve a real purpose within our community.  But on the other hand we haven’t been able to let them out to hunt for themselves and we are having to feed them from our own rations.  I’ve been mixing leftovers with rice and whey to try and keep them fed and out of our domestic animal stock.  Squirrels are actually getting scarce ‘cause the dogs or cats grab them as soon as they show up.  I don’t know for how much longer we’ll be able to keep that up though. 

The hogs get acorns, slop the dogs won’t eat, and mash from the still.  The cattle, poultry, and goats are just about as free range though we are able to supplement their diet better with feed we’ve found here and there.  The llamas are all free range as is the ostrich and a few of our other wilder critters.  The only animals that are primarily fed using commercial feed are the horses, mules, and burros.  This just proves even more that our corn crop is going to be a make or break project for us.  If we can’t get a decent corn crop in I don’t know what we are going to do as far as the animals go.  

I’ve taken a chance and continued planting blocks of corn in succession so I really hope everything makes.  So far so good with everything else up to this point.  I’ve lost some stuff sure, but less than I expected.  What I haven’t liked is that everything is so much smaller on the vine than I expected and the plants are producing fewer fruits than I expected.  My mom’s garden was always so great and the fruits and veggies so pretty; they could (and did) win prizes at the local fair.  I’m not sure if being forced to go organic has made that much of a difference or if the lack of rain is the cause.  I don’t know, maybe a combination of those two factors and others that I haven’t thought of yet. 

The kids were just about to drive me buggy today.  Between being cooped up to keep them from getting sick in this cold rain and my own headache I nearly lost my temper over small, stupid stuff more than once.  Charlene was really trying to help but I could tell she wasn’t feeling much better than I was.  Sarah and Rose were a little on the cranky side too.  I’m thinking that having so many females living in close confines like we do our cycles are beginning to occur at the same time.   

I had mentioned something about that to Scott the other day and he got this horrified look on his face.  It made me laugh but I’m still not sure if he was funning with me or not.  I finally just broke down and fixed everyone a surprise Orange “Slush.”  Basically for every two cups of orange juice you mix in a half cup of powdered milk.  To that you mix in about a quarter teaspoon of vanilla extract.  I snagged a bunch of ice cubes that are stacking up in the Cooler and used an old, manual ice shaver from one of the girls’ toys to crunch the ice up enough to mix into the OJ/milk mixture.  Wow, was it good.  Almost as good as a cold soda would have been … almost. 

Today was a food prep day anyway.  I spent a few hours in the food store house.  The first thing I noticed was that the rat traps needed to be changed.  We haven’t lost anything as we’ve been packaging things in metal and glass containers when at all possible but it still grosses me out thinking about rats and mice slinking all over the shelves.  Ick.  I’m hoping one of Lucky’s kittens may be a little more domesticated and also turns out to be a good hunter; I’ll try and fix it so that it will live in the food storehouse and turn into a mouser. 

Rodents aren’t the only problem over there.  The food organization has fallen apart.  I haven’t got a clue if there is an up-to-date inventory.  I asked Brandon to see if he could build me an inventory spreadsheet on Excel on a reliable laptop or tower computer … or even on an Ipod I-touch or something like that … so that I can inventory as I go.  There are a lot of things on the shelves that looks like it is either at or just past the “do not use past” date.  Looks like I’m going to be putting together more odd meals to get this stuff used up in some semblance of order. 

Tonight for dinner, much to the initial distrust of some of the guys, I made Lentil-Walnut Patties.  I know that sounds kind of weird but I needed to have a good protein with the meal and with all the rain it would have been too much of a pain to try and good a good roast or other type of big meat dish.  Plus, I had these canned nuts that needed to be used before they went rancid.   

First you purée some cooked lentils and then place them in a medium-size bowl.  Spread your walnuts and some crumbs in a shallow pan and toast them lightly in a hot oven (400 degrees F) for about 10 minutes.  Take them out of the oven and stir into lentils and then add eggs, onion, catsup, cloves, salt and pepper.  My mixture turned out to be too dry so I added a little sour cream.  Once you get the right consistency you shape the mess into patties (1/2 cup each) and sauté in oil and butter until nicely browned, about 5 minutes per side.   

To go with the patties I made a rice pilaf and we had some nice grilled eggplant with goat milk cheese using the white eggplants that I harvested today.  There was also a nice mesclun greens salad for anyone that wanted it.   

If you are wondering why I’m cooking again it’s because I think we’ve got a little bug running around or something.  Saen wasn’t feeling good again.  I dropped by and took her some ginger tea and asked her if she had spoken with Waleski yet.  I guess I was trying to figure out if she was going to be the next victim of the fertile fairy but I could tell just as soon as she opened her mouth that it was just a bad head cold.  It’s bound to happen to someone else sooner or later; probably sooner rather than later.  Anne and I got a giggle out of trying to guess who would be next.  When the guys would look at us funny we would get this really innocent look on our faces and then they would get suspicious and all but run for the hills.  Scott and Lee stopped by later in the afternoon and we let them in on the joke. 

Of course they didn’t see it quite the same way we did.  They actually wanted to know who we thought would catch it next.  If I had to guess I would say probably Melody.  She and Cease are pretty young and liable to be less careful until after they get caught the first time.  Rilla might be next on my list.  Ty is a couple of years old already and I know she wants a little brother or sister for him.  After that I would have to guess maybe Austin and his Sarah.  I know they’ve been together for a while but they are both still pretty young.  Saen and Glenn will have a baby when they get good and ready to.  I’m thinking that may be one of the reasons that Glenn is so all fired up and in a hurry to get Aldea set up.  They are both old enough and experienced enough they aren’t liable to get caught until they are good and ready to get caught. 

The only other one that I think might be a candidate in the near future is Tina.  She’s not that old, certainly still fertile.  Another baby might be just what they need to help them through their grief; or not, its not my place to say I suppose. 

One of the rabbit does added another little batch of baby rabbits to the ones we’ve already got … or kits or whatever you call baby rabbits.  In the not too distant future we’ll probably need to start culling some of them.  We already have more hutches than I expected to have at any one time.  I like the rabbits, but on the other hand I don’t want to just continue to raise them gratuitously no matter how cute some of them are.  Some of those things may be cute but they also bite.  Think Bugs Bunny after being on steroids too long … very, very cranky and unpredictable. 

And for more unpredictability in life I’m going to make pizza for breakfast.  I’ll partially bake the pizza shells first and while they are baking I’ll scramble some eggs with onion and bell pepper.  Before the pizza shells are completely finished I’ll pull them out and put some of the cooked egg mixture and then I’ll put other toppings – one will be sausage, another one bacon, a third ham, a veggie omelet one with mushrooms, etc. – so that everyone can grab exactly what they want.  I’ll also fix a couple of fruit topped pizzas that will be similar to a sweet roll.  Hopefully this will minimize clean up for me and hold people until lunch time.   

Before I forget, Matlock took a party out and they re-claimed that armored vehicle and its contents from the exact spot the patrol we traded with yesterday said it would be.  Nice to know they were on the up and up.  I hope they made it to the extraction point on time.  Dix told them to come back our way if for some reason their plan blew up.   

I suppose that could make it seem like we are choosing sides and I guess to a certain extent we are; our own.  The NRSC that was in this area proved they weren’t the most trustworthy bunch.  On the other hand Matlock and his crew originally worked with the NRSC even though they were National Guardsmen.  You have to be careful of the paintbrush you wield when say who the bad guy is and who he is not.  We’ll need to tread real careful so that we don’t get drawn into something that could destroy us.  We have enough of that going on already. 

And with that I am finished for the evening.  Rain sounds like it is kicking up again.  Looks like another soggy day tomorrow and if I’m going to be in charge of all the cooking again I’m going to need my rest.

Day 221 (Friday) – March 9 – Cleaning Day 

I didn’t get much cleaning done in our house but I did make a start on the food storehouse.  There wasn’t much else that I could really do in the gardens because it rained.  And rained.  And rained, rained, rained, rained.  I’m glad for it but I’m also fighting being ungrateful … if it isn’t one type of mess it’s another. 

To get the kids out of the house I brought them over to the food storehouse with me.  Of course I put them to work which wasn’t exactly what they had been expecting.  I’ve warned all the kids that they shouldn’t ever say the dreaded phrase, “I’m bored, I don’t have anything to do.”  I’m really, really good at finding stuff for bored kids to do.  (Cue evil scientist laugh.) 

Actually I wound up having to ask for some help from some of the older boys … guys … young men … whatever they preferred to be called.  I had them rearrange some of the shelves upstairs and I’ve moved all of the #10 cans of foods upstairs on those shelves.  I also moved all of the commercially canned herbs and spices upstairs in labeled tubs.  Basically I put upstairs anything that was sealed for long term storage or that we don’t use very much.  We had already gutted the plumbing and everything from the house so in what used to be the upstairs bathroom I put all condiments.  Another one of the upstairs rooms is where I’ve put all the chutneys and pickled stuff.  One of the walk in closets upstairs is kept locked and that’s where all of the candy (non-chocolate) and snack foods are kept. 

Downstairs I put all of the bulk grains in what was the master bedroom.  Then each of the remaining rooms downstairs was allocated to a specific season or type of item.  One of the smallest rooms was full of tomato products.  Another room held all of the canned meats and jerky.  Yet another room I’ve designated to hold all of the beans whether they are dried, commercially canned, or home canned.  And of course there is a room that is full of nothing but fruit and fruit products like jams, jellies, dried fruit, and canned fruits.   One of the downstairs rooms has also been set aside for sweetenings and fats so that room is where you’ll find all of the sugars and the cooking oils. 

It isn’t a perfect solution and I keep finding areas where I need to arrange and then rearrange things and I still might change my mind as we go along but it certainly looks better than it did before.  Of course, we’ve used quite a bit of stuff as well so that’s made more room.  We moved the cleaning products to a couple of the steel storage containers in the Wall and most of the fresh meat now gets put into the smokehouse.  First aid stuff is being stored in the clinic. 

The food storehouse pretty much took up our whole day.  I did indeed fix pizzas for breakfast and while I got a few raised eyebrows most everyone was a good sport about it.  Food is fuel after all and we need all the fuel we can get. 

The other two meals were other people’s responsibilities.  I know I ate something … or at least Rose put something in front of me that made it from a plate to my mouth … but it really didn’t make that much of an impression.  I do that sometimes – get so busy and focused that I eat out of necessity and not necessarily out of desire and then pretty much forget what it was that I had to eat.  Lunch was soft and dinner was hot and that’s about all my senses registered. 

I’m very tired tonight.  Tomorrow we are supposed to do some baking but if the rain doesn’t let up we are going to be looking at have to bake bread on a day-by-day basis this coming week.  I don’t like doing it like that because we always use more flour.  It’s harder to ration out. 

If I can’t bake tomorrow then I’ll probably do some canning.  There are quite a few tropical apricots, loquats, and mysore raspberries that I can do something with.  If not that then I should probably go through the kids’ clothes and shoes and see what needs to be repaired, replaced, let down, hemmed up, etc.  There is always something that needs doing.   

Scott got soaked today as did James and David.  All the guys did for that matter.  I didn’t realize how wet though until I stepped on the wet clothes he left on the bathroom floor.  Talk about a rude surprise.  I didn’t know what I had stepped on at first.  Scott got chilled which isn’t good.  He’s been working so hard and we aren’t getting any younger.  I know 40s isn’t “old” but on the other hand it isn’t “young” either.  I worry about him.  His family had a history of early heart problems and diabetes.  Scott avoided the diabetes and with only a brief scare concerning a problem that turned out to not be a problem after all.  I thought we had years before we needed to worry about that sort of thing.  I don’t know.  He’s wearing himself out and I worry what toll this will eventually take on his health. 

The men were dismantling buildings all day long.  Sarah and Samuel and some of the other early teens and tweens did a huge favor for me and are gathering all the intact stepping stones and pavers that can be salvaged.  When the concrete mix runs out we are going to have to change to some other way of putting a floor or patio down. 

The trash was getting to be a bit much to happen so McElroy dug a long trench out in the big burn zone and the guys managed to get a slow fire going.  The rain keeps it completely under control but we are able to burn things like drywall, old paneling, insulation, and other crappy pieces of stuff that just isn’t worth trying to save or salvage.   

James is out on the Wall but should be back in any minute from his turn.  I’ll go out then.  Scott is off duty tonight but David has early shift.  I wouldn’t mind so much except that it is raining.  Oh, and there he is now.  I need to close up and get going.  I hope someone has the teapot going in the guard station; I have a feeling I’m going to need it.


Day 222 (Saturday) – March 10 - Saturday 

And another one bites the dust … or another three or four should I say.  I was so tired when I got off of guard duty last night I basically just kind of fell across the bed and forgot to take off my wet socks and other dampish underthings.  Of course that was just bloody brilliant and I woke up with a sore throat and stuffy sinuses. 

Scott isn’t feeling great either but more from the threatening cold than actually having a full-blown one.  Charlene also isn’t feeling all that great.  And James seems to be trying to come down with this crap as well.  Rose and David are fine.  The two of them are Teflon coated and they rarely seem to get ill.  So far none of the younger kids have it though I made sure that my Sarah and Bekah were well-covered when they went out into the weather to do their chores. 

Scott was depressed that he couldn’t “save” the girls from having to do their chores.  I mean I wasn’t happy about it but I guess I felt OK with it whereas he went into Daddy-mode.  But we don’t have much time before our group splits its focus and Scott needs to take advantage as much as possible of the extra labor before they head to Aldea.  This morning there were still three dozen buildings tagged for immediately dismantling and they only have two days to do it.  None of the buildings got pulled down but most of them were pretty much gutted today.  Tomorrow the guys have agreed to forego their Rest Day … assuming the weather cooperates better than it did today … and they pull down what buildings they can and the rest will just have to be done slower. 

Weather cooperation isn’t what I would call at a high level right now.  The front must be stalled right over the top of us.  Not that we don’t need the rain but we’ve had several days running of the stuff.  No flooding that lasted too long despite some pretty torrential downpours during the day but we do have standing water at the end of a lot of driveways.   

It’s a good thing that David did that one section of the canal.  The canal has already filled back up right to that point.  So far the artificial embankment built from the broken concrete blocks is holding.  When David wasn’t helping dismantle the rubble houses outside of the Wall he was getting filthy climbing around in the canal trying to get the next section of embankment going.  The only thing I asked him to be careful of was not to destroy any more of the elderberry bushes than he had to.  In August and September I hope to harvest them and show Waleski how I make elderberry extract which is an immune booster for treating both influenza A and B; or at least it is supposed to be, I prefer my cayenne pepper remedy to tell you the truth. 

Rose was over at the clinic with Melody, Rilla, and Ski most of the day.  They were doing a new inventory and preparing the supplies that would go with Aldea.  Rose admitted at dinner around our own table … it was a huge cauldron of soup that was divided up amongst the families/groups to eat where ever they could get out of the rain … that it was disconcerting to see the chunk of supplies just suddenly go like that.  They still have quite a bit but what was taken out was noticeable.   

Aldea’s medical situation is going to be better than a lot of people are dealing with right now but not as good as we have it in Sanctuary.  Austin is going to head up the med stuff there.  He’s practically a vet anyway and he’ll just carry over that training into human treatment.  There is less difference in some stuff than people realize.  He’s already proven to be cool in an emergency as evidence when that he and Dix and a couple of the others were attacked while hunting at Lowry Park Zoo. 

It’s going to be a while before they stay overnight at Aldea.  The group will leave in the morning, work all day setting up their perimeter and getting the storage containers stacked into their own Wall/apartments, and then at night they’ll come back to Sanctuary.   Glenn says that if the weather lets up he thinks they can get the basic set up done in a week and make it secure enough that they can start moving families in. 

While they are still “going and coming” we’ll go through and start dividing up the food.  We’ll have to start them out with a bunch of the canned and dried foods which will cut into Sanctuary’s reserves but we have all the gardens going.  One of the first things they have to do is set up the rice fields and get their regular garden plotted and dug out.  The plan is for them to plant the rice asap and start planting a vegetable garden on the first of April.  They are only going to have about two weeks to get set up before they have to start this. 

Matlock and Dix thinks that at first we’ll have twice a week supply exchanges.   Once Aldea becomes more self-sufficient that may go down to once a week or even bi-weekly.  We’ll still cooperate on issues of security and hunts that take us out of the immediate area or trading parties that go out of the immediate area.   

If I had to find historical references for the differences between Aldea and Sanctuary I would say that Sanctuary is similar to a small medieval walled town though we don’t have the same type of population.  Aldea is going to be more kin to the forts on the frontier, particularly those of the backcountry era when the young US first began to expand past the Smoky Mountains.  Sanctuary is big enough that we live inside the Wall most of the time.  Aldea is going to be smaller and more compact so while they’ll sleep and eat inside their compound, most of their working and living time will likely be spent outside their wall but still within a patrolled perimeter.    I’m not sure but I think Matlock mentioned that they were going to scavenge chain link fencing and then install it along a strategic line inside the park.  That’s not going to happen however until they build their primary compound and get their gardens up and running. 

Some folks are also making some noise about another extended run either to the north or south of the state.  Angus and Jim have mentioned that they’d like to see the east coast of Florida and may even dip down towards the south just to see what is up.  Scott hasn’t said so explicitly but I think he might be interested in another run to the north, maybe along the panhandle this time.  I thought they ran into enough trouble last time they tried that.  Angus and Jim I can kinda see, they’ve got built in wanderlust.  But Scott has responsibilities here at home.  I’m not at all thrilled by the prospect of him going anywhere much less taking James which is what I overheard. 

Lots of changes coming rapidly but I guess that is no different than what has happened for months now.  I have just gotten comfortable with the way things are now.  The way things are right now is what feels like security.  I know dividing our population is a bit inevitable … too many alphas in a confined space does not make for easy living.  On the other hand it is hard for me to justify it when I know for a fact how relatively well-off we are right now at this given point in time.  Scott tries to comfort me by saying things like, “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.”  I guess what he is trying to say when he gets all Confucius-y is that extended our sphere of influence over a larger area by seeding places with our own people we become stronger than the individual settlements would at first appear.  We aren’t just individual settlements in the wilderness but like-minded colonies working towards a common goal which gives us greater influence over the final construct that we build. 

We’ve spent so much time surviving the immediate here and now that I’m having trouble readjusting my thinking to anything beyond the immediate future.  Scott and I used to talk about our retirement years and the things we wanted to do when we got there.  We made long term financial plans including for the kids’ futures.  Now all I seem to be able to plan for is from one meal to the next. 

The gardens are helping me put things back into a longer view perspective.  I think one of the reasons that David is so very interested in building up the canal with fish and such is that it is working to a future and long-lasting result.  Rose continues to be adamant that the medical field is where she wants to be and she certainly is going towards that with gusto.  She studies every evening after all her daily work is complete.   

James seems to be free-floating.  He hadn’t really settled on what he wanted to do when he grew up and almost any plan he would have had has been pretty well kyboshed at this point.  He has really grown up but I want something more for his future than just a gun in his hands sitting on the Wall waiting for an enemy that may never appear.  Yes, some of that needs to be done by dedicated individuals but there needs to be something more to fall back on as well.  It’s like those students with the football scholarships that have dreams of making it to the professionals and that is all they ever focus on.  When they aren’t drafted by a professional franchise or even if they do but get cut after a season or two they have nothing to fall back on.   

Scott and I have talked about this a few times.  We had so much to choose from when it came to our future.  We didn’t have unlimited choices, no one does really, but we certainly had a whole lot to choose from.  Our kids … it’s almost as if NRS has robbed them of some of their potential.  But at the same time that isn’t what I mean because it sounds like I’ll be disappointed if Rose never earns her doctorate or James never goes to college or my Sarah never actually becomes a certified Vet.  NRS has robbed them of choices I guess is a better way of saying it.   

It sounds petty when put beside the fact that NRS robbed so many of life altogether.  I guess every parent’s dream is for their kids to have more and better options than they themselves did.  I know I still want better for the kids than what we have right now.  It’s not that I don’t appreciate what we have right now but sometimes I worry that the kids will look back and have regrets.  Scott says we need to keep in mind that the kids access to choices may only be temporarily delayed and not necessarily taken away completely.  I hope that is all that it is.   

Oh, I don’t expect things to go back to the way they used to be very quickly if at all but it’s hard to come to terms with the fact that it may be our grandkids or great grandkids before the same types of choices are available to children. 

Well obviously you can tell I’m not feeling my best.  I always get morose when I’m sick.  I ran a fever off and on and I can actually feel it coming back as I’m sitting here writing.  Charlene is already asleep as are most of the kids.  Only James is up and acting twitchy and bored; usually he and Charlene play a game of chess at night before he goes on guard duty or just sit and talk.  He hasn’t complained but I can tell he isn’t feeling one hundred percent.  Sarah made him a thermos of Russian Tea to take on duty tonight and startled him with her unexpected thoughtfulness.  Of all the kids those two go at it more than any of the others.  I suppose it is that they are four years apart and the opposite sex.  There are days when I want to throw something at both of them; they like to irritate each other so much. 

Scott had guard duty during supper.  He should be home shortly and then James will go and stop looking so gloomy.  I don’t know who is took my place today.  Scott had Ski come over first thing this morning when I woke up with a fever.  I’ve slept off and on today but not as much as I wanted to if you want the truth.   

I did some school work with the kids despite it being Saturday.  That Monday through Friday school schedule is kind of useless these days.  We get our schooling when and where we can.  After everyone leaves for Aldea however I am determined to put an honest to goodness school schedule into effect for the kids who remain here.  Today’s school work mostly entailed using math, science, and research skills to plan the garden patches that will go into the ground the beginning of April.  After that I had them go through all of their clothes and pull out the stuff that needs repair or is too small and separate it into piles; this included all of their underclothing and accessories.  They also had to clean their shoes and hats.  Sarah (and Samuel who was over at our house as usual) were very good at keeping this activity organized while I took another short nap. 

When I woke up I found the mending pile smaller than I expected it to be.  We’ve done really well about keeping things sewn up and in good repair.  I wasn’t happy to see that nearly all of the kids need new shoes of some type.  I asked Samuel how he was doing and he blushed and said that he could use some new shoes too but Dix was sewing most of his clothes back together for him.  I told him not to be embarrassed.  It wasn’t Patricia’s fault that she was confined to bed, it just happened to be that way right now.    

That seemed to bring him out of his shyness and he took off his shoe and showed me where Dix had “darned” his socks.  I’ll give Dix and A+ for effort but putting patches of duct tape was unlike any sewing project that I’ve ever seen.  I had to cough into my hand so I wouldn’t laugh out loud.  After Samuel left and we were cleaning up from our last meal of the day Sarah came to me and said, “Gosh Mom.  Do you think it would be all right if I fixed his socks?  I don’t want to make Mrs. Patricia mad, or Mr. Dix either, but even I know you don’t fix holes in clothes by putting tape on them.” 

I told her I’d talk to Patricia when I got over my cold and we’d probably look into pulling him some clothes out of storage.  Shoes though he needs right away and I have made a note to mention it to Dix.  Samuel’s feet though are pretty big.  I think the last size we got for him were size sixteen.  If he has already grown out of those it might just be better to make him some moccasins.  And I’ve just remembered where I put that pattern for turning car tires into sandals so we’ll probably make some of those as the daylight hangs around longer and we have more time.   

Oh, I’m getting to fell not so good again.  ‘Night.  Hopefully tomorrow will be better.  Bless this rain.  Curse this cold. 

Day 224 (Monday) – March 12 

Just found a great big giant hole in my plans.  Why is that we always consider ourselves indestructible?  I mean that is just totally stupid.   

Saturday night I got really sick.  My fever would go up and down but I just couldn’t kick it all the way.  I was pretty out of it most of yesterday and didn’t start really feeling human again until late yesterday afternoon.  But I was weak as a day old kitten.  I haven’t done much better today.  No fever, thank goodness, but still really zapped of any strength.  I tried to get up several times today and just …. well, I’m embarrassed to say that I was so tired I cried like a baby.   

I’m glad no one but this journal will ever know that I did.  I just plain broke down.  My “to do” list is just so long now and I can’t afford to lay around like I have for the last two days.  The reason though that I say I have a giant hole in my plans is because I realized I’ve been making the same mistakes that I swore I wouldn’t make.  I just let the kids gravitate to doing the things they like best and picked up the slack in the other stuff. 

Rose is almost 100% in the clinic these days.  She helps with cooking some and does help with the kids when she is off duty and not studying.  She also helps with chores around the house.  I thought that would be OK … she really doesn’t like gardening and I figured her time was better spent doing other things.  My Sarah is an animal person and she is very good at helping with all of those chores.  She even does the more disgusting chores like mucking the stables without a single complaint.  And she helps some around the house.   James used to be who I could count on most for all of the outdoor work but he is now much more interested in guard duty and being with the men and because when he isn’t doing that he is helping Scott I just didn’t think much of it.  Bekah wants to learn everything she can about communications in general and the radio specifically … and it’s needed that some of the younger folk are there to help. 

But what about the gardening?  The littles help me but I have to guide nearly their every step.  Scott wouldn’t know a squash from a cucumber from a gourd if it picked the hoe up and hit him in the head.  He sure can’t tell the difference between any of the root crops until they’ve been pulled up.  And he can look at something and without measuring tell you how much wood or cement will be needed but he hasn’t a clue how to plant a garden.   

Now Reba and Betty sure do know how to take care of a garden but after talking to them today they realized the same thing I have.  Their kids have no idea how to plan, plant, and manage a garden of any size.  We’ve just been doing it because it was easiest and we seemed to get things done faster. 

The only other ones that know anything about gardening are going to Aldea … Saen and Becky primarily.  Anne is going to tend the little flock of chickens they are going to install over there since she used to keep a small flock pre-NRS. 

Charlene and my Sarah both tried to help today but it was a mess.  Like a dope I never labeled the rows of what I planted where.  I just didn’t think about it.  They couldn’t tell the difference between the squash, cucumbers, and melons that I’ve planted. 

Only half the washing that needed to get done got done today as well.  All of the bedding needed to be washed but the girls were barely able to get the jeans and all the under things washed, rinsed, and hung to dry.  It was dinner time before they finished the last load of towels and they didn’t have time to dry before night fell.  They are going to have to stay on the line overnight and finish drying tomorrow.  I hope the birds don’t get on them or they’ll have to be rewashed.  As it is they are going to be hard and coarse as sandpaper.   

Tomorrow all I’m going to be able to do is hang the linens out and air them out the best we can.  I’m so glad that I keep the mattresses in protectors or they’d be disgusting by now.  The pillows too for that matter.  That’s something else I need to think about.  What happens when the mattresses and pillows begin to fall apart?  One of the first things Scott and I scavenged were new mattresses and pillows for all the beds in the house and we have some still in one of the steel storage containers but even those will go sooner or later.  What are we going to replace the mattresses with?  They used to use hay but I’d really hate to go back to that.  Dang it, something else to manufacture.  Maybe we should start saving feathers like they did in the old days to make pillows and down comforters with. 

Scott slept in his easy chair last night trying to not get whatever I have/had.  He said he is going to sleep there tonight too just to be on the safe side.  Hopefully tomorrow night he’ll be able to sleep in his own bed again.  That’s another reason why I want to air everything out tomorrow to try and get rid of the germs. 

I couldn’t have picked a worst time to get sick.  Things are really starting to take off in the garden.  Betty came over with a basket of what they had picked today.  There was more broccoli and looseleaf lettuces but they picked the first of the carrots and cabbage.  I nearly cried that I hadn’t been there to pull the first ones but I guess I should be grateful that things are making.  

So far the way I planted it turned out to be great.  There is yet to be more fresh produce come ripe than we can use in a single day.  That day is fast approaching and that’s when we’ll need to start preserving things for when the garden gives out.   

And speaking of giving out, that’s where I am right now.  I’m all give out.  Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to be up and about but I had to try.  Hopefully tomorrow will be better.

Day 227 (Thursday) – March 15 

Two missed days of journaling but I suppose it would be too much to expect to be able to do exactly what I want every day.   

Day before yesterday I was still dragging but I’m feeling better today than I have been in a while.  Not what I would call one hundred percent but certainly better.  Scott heated me up another tub of water Tuesday night and I soaked the germs and general malaise from my body.    Wednesday I was still getting better but feeling like I was trying to relapse a bit but today was all good … at least health-wise. 

The intermediate reality of our new living situation is slowly sinking in.  The crew that is going to be living in Aldea started going there on Tuesday.  I spent much of yesterday and today inventorying items and splitting stuff by percentage.  As soon as they get their primary compound set up they’ll take 20% of the food storage and dry goods.  After they are firmly established and have their storage capacity and system worked out they’ll get another 20% of the food storage.  We’ll provide them with fresh foods and a share of the corn crop until they can get their garden going.  In exchange they’ll provide us with a share of rice. 

Fuel won’t be split as Glenn and some of the others found a partially filled tanker left behind by the NRSC at a refueling point.  The fuel that is at Sanctuary will remain here to run the tractor and to be pieced out while we increase our biofuel capacity; primarily with methane and cellulose and “white lightning.” 

Some of the plans for Aldea have changed.  The recent rain we got, while not nearly enough to call off the drought, has definitely pointed out some of the problems with building Aldea.  First, the main compound location has been changed.  It will be in the main park area that has been built up and leveled off.  It’s really the only good place in the park stable enough year round for a good foundation.  That location change will also mean that fewer trees will have to be taken down.  The peninsula where they were originally going to build was nothing but lowland and cypress.  However they are going to build an emergency bug out location on the original peninsula up on stilts and maintain it to a fallback position. 

The new location for Aldea does offer one benefit.  There is an inlet of sorts that can be turned into a protected harbor.  There is already an existing boardwalk right along that side of the river and that can be used to help with the water mill idea that has been spoken of.  They’ll also be closer to the “lake” portion of the Hillsborough River which should help them with fishing and trading as well.  And the observation tower will get them a really great view of the surrounding area if they can get it fortified. 

Well, it is what it is.  There are things about Aldea that I like and things that I don’t.  I’ll admit to partiality to Sanctuary but I understand that it isn’t perfect either.  One of the things about Sanctuary that was always on the problematic side was the fact that it was right on a main highway.  US41 offered both good and bad things but it’s a little on the moot side now as it has been so torn up, blown up, washed out, burnt, and just about anything else you can think of including having a major train derailment wreck the heck out of a couple of sections several months back.  As badly damaged as the road is it won’t be long before grass and weeds add to the deterioration and US41 will return to the mud track it was a hundred years ago. 

On the other hand, if we can get a trade route set up, Sanctuary is in a perfect position to take major advantage of any traffic in that regard.  Aldea could be a trade center by water and Sanctuary could be a trade center by land.  We’d be sister communities that could lock in and become major players in any rebuilding that goes on.  The only better position for something of that nature would be something immediately along the coast and then you have issues with the annual hurricane season. 

As for trading, we have our first real trade as far as I’m concerned.  It wasn’t a huge trade as things go but I think a significant one and something that I had Brandon note in the history of Sanctuary that he is keeping.  A woman came to the front gate today and had heard from the peddlers that we might be interested in trade.  She had homemade soap to trade and was looking for some garden starts.  I traded a tray of garden seedlings and a few packets of seed for five gallons of laundry detergent and a half dozen bars of bath soap.   

Why I think this is significant is because neither product was something we could have scavenged.  I grew the plants and she – her name was Dora – made the soap from scratch.  This was a total cottage industry type deal.   

I guess I better confess something.  I don’t think that even Scott would understand if I told him.  I just couldn’t stand to see how hungry the two kids where that the woman had with her.  They called her “aunt” so I’m assuming that they were her niece and nephew but it could have just been a polite title for a woman that had taken them in.  I don’t know, I didn’t ask though I wondered.  Anyway, it hurt to see them.  The woman didn’t ask for charity and seemed rather proud that she had found a way to make a good trade for what she needed without asking for a handout.  I just couldn’t stand it so in the basket of seedlings and seeds I put in a hunk of the Pony Express Bread I had made yesterday and a jelly jar of honey. 

I know, I know … but it just felt like the right thing to do.  Had it been a bunch of adults I wouldn’t have done it.  If it had felt like she was using the kids to get sympathy I wouldn’t have done it.  But it didn’t feel that way at all.  I just hope that if the need ever arrives that “what goes around comes around” will be the pay off. 

We are having better and better luck with the garden production.  The rain has had an amazing effect on everything.  In addition to the carrots that are coming in we have broccoli and the looseleaf lettuce.  The first couple of heads of cabbage were cut and the radishes are coming in again.  I have a whole row of Chiogga beets that I’m going to harvest and preserve tomorrow and the English peas are beginning to come in so fast that I’m having to pick the ones ready for harvest and put them in the Cooler until I have enough to can a batch in the pressure canner.   

And today I harvested the first head of iceberg lettuce and shredded it up.  We had a wonderful dinner tonight.  I mixed 1:1:1 some taco flavored TVP, ground venison, and canned ground beef and then seasoned it up really well.  We had a few boxes of corn tortillas that needed to be used so I pulled those out of the inventory and freshened them up and of course we made a ton of flour tortillas.  Reba made some sour cream and Betty brought some cheese she has been aging and I made some queso blanco from some powdered milk past its best used by date.  I added some homemade salsa that I had made last year and then baked some of the flour tortillas and turned them into chips.  My girls helped by making up a big batch of refried beans.  I wish I had fresh tomatoes to add to it but the tomatoes aren’t due to be ripe until next week at the earliest.   

Tomorrow is another cleaning day but I’m going to be inventorying and reorganizing in the food storehouse for the most part except for a little bit of gardening and then working on getting the beets preserved.  Betty actually told me if I wanted to help get the jars all set up she would be happy to watch the canner for me.  She is teaching another lesson on canning to the girls.   

We are doing this really cool stuff.  For every “lesson” we are making a scrapbook page.  OK, I know most guys would probably find this kind of corny but this is a really good way to put stuff definitely in memory.  We can’t really take pictures but we can draw and we have a ton of scrapbooking stuff that we’ve gathered and it can be as fancy or as plain as you want it.   

Over the summer when it is too hot to do anything else I plan on teaching them embroidery and crochet and maybe even quilting if it doesn’t make me too sad.  Mom taught Sarah some quilting since Rose just never was interested.  Sarah still has her first quilt block and has it framed and hanging in her room.  I miss Momma.  

I gotta stop writing for tonight.  I’m getting too sad all of a sudden and it just won’t do for Scott to come in from guard duty and find me crying.

Day 228 (Friday) – March 16 

It has been a fairly productive day.  Up early and dawn was clear and bright.  Breakfast was cornmeal cakes; some liked them sweet and some liked them savory, I didn’t care just as long as they cleaned their plates. 

After breakfast most of the Aldea folks left for the day, including the women and children.  They were going to start cooking their mid-day meal on-site instead of taking stuff from here.  That means that we don’t have near as many to cook for and those that remain are the ones that tend to be used to the way I normally cooked.  I prefer to fix a hearty breakfast; not big, hearty.  Lunch is the main meal of the day.  I have a “tea time” around 4 o’clock and then a lighter supper is served about 7 o’clock at night.   

I guess I picked up my in-laws’ habits after Scott and I got married; but it works most of the time for us.  If the youngest kids are too tired to stay up late enough for dinner they won’t go to bed hungry because they’ve had “tea time.”  There’s been a few times when some of the adults aren’t hungry enough to eat supper and tea time is enough for them as well.  The tea time also helps with our guard duty rotations. 

Dix is working out a new schedule for guard duty here at Sanctuary.  It’s going to be challenging to manage but we did it before our population became so large.   We did it before, we’ll do it again.  I’ll be back on the rotation pretty regular but mostly during the day probably … hopefully.   What I’m really hoping is that this isn’t too hard on the men, but we don’t have much choice. 

The kids are really going to have to kick it up a notch and help with the work around Sanctuary.  They are already helping quite a bit but until we can get into a new routine they are going to have to help pick up the slack.  The cows are giving between five and eight gallons of milk per day and that’s a lot of work but the Cooler helps.  We are now also processing cheeses which everyone is really excited about. 

Today however was primarily cleaning and processing beets.  And we had a bunch more beets to harvest than I expected.  For the succession planting I did I think I needed more than a day or two between the rows.  We have the most of three rows ready to pick so that means we had a lot to process. 

We were able to make quite a few beet items:  beet jelly, pickled beets, beet relish, and plain beets.  We’ve still got quite a few beets in the Cooler and I’m afraid people are going to get sick of them eventually.  At lunch we had a beet casserole as a side dish and then Betty and I laughed and giggled the entire time we were making brownies that had beets hidden in them.  We had them during tea time.  Here is the recipe.  We’ll give it a couple of day before we confess what was in them. 

Chocolate Beet Brownies

1/2 cup butter (or 1/4 cup butter and 1/4 cup applesauce)
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate
4 eggs
1 cup brown sugar (packed)
1 cup applesauce
1 tsp. vanilla
1-1/2 cup unbleached white flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking powder
1 cup cooked beets or 15 oz. can beets packed in water, drained and mashed;
1/2 cup finely chopped almonds
1/2 cup wheat germ

Melt butter and chocolate over low heat. Set aside to cool. In a separate bowl, beat eggs until light in color and foamy. Add sugar and vanilla and continue beating until well creamed. Stir in chocolate mixture, followed by applesauce and beets. Sift together flour, salt, spices and baking powder and stir into creamed mixture. Fold in wheat germ and almonds. Turn into greased 9x13-inch pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes. Cool before cutting into squares. 

Betty and I were giggling so much we had to leave the kitchen area because people kept asking us what was so funny.  You know, I’m glad Scott and I didn’t try and do this whole “survival” thing on our own.  I love Scott.  I love the kids.  But there are certainly issues of weakness in a small family group that you can compensate with by being part of a larger group with similar goals.   

Not too big though.  I remember the problems that the Ehren Cutoff group had and I think some of the issues were a direct result of their size and how they were trying to govern themselves.  It will be interesting to see now that we are cutting our “leadership” in half how well things will run.  I used to not be real thrilled with Dix and there are still issues with him that I’m not totally in line with; however, if I had to choose which man had grown the most as a leader between Matlock and Dix I have to admit that it would be Dix.   

Matlock continues to be Matlock.  He has always had the better rapport with people and been more flexible.  When he and Becky hooked up and moved to their own place some of the relationship I had with him changed but that was to be expected.  I don’t think I resented that but on the other hand I did catch myself comparing him to the men in my family.  I was probably getting a little too close and involved.  No one is going to replace my brother and I just need to learn to deal with that. 

Dix on the other hand has certainly learned to be more flexible and to work within the group better.  He was such a solo act I used to worry about how he would work out as a person in leadership.  In some weird way it’s like he has become more comfortable in his own skin and being comfortable with himself helps him to be comfortable with others.  He always seemed so arrogant and that just irritated me beyond reason, but he isn’t that way now.  He still intimidates some people but not to the extreme he used to.  He can’t help he is one of those big guys that looks like GI Joe on steroids.  I think it also helps people see him as a father to Samuel and how much effort he is willing to put into being a good one.   

I think we’ve all changed to some degree.  We are still ourselves but stretched and grown in ways we could never have envisioned. 

I have most of the first 20% of the food divided out for the Aldea folks to take.  They’ll take most of that on Monday.  Saen and Anne are heading that part up.  Becky is miserable with nerves and morning sickness that has come back on her.  The mosquitoes and no-seeums are pretty bad over there as well.  They’ve taken quite a bit of screening with them but they can’t spend all of their time inside their storage container homes, they aren’t designed for that. 

Bugs are getting bad here as well now that the cool weather is gone for good and the recent rains have left enough moisture for the mosquitoes to breed in.  They don’t need standing water but it doesn’t hurt.  The fish in the ponds and canals will actually help with this as they will eat most of the mosquito larvae laid in that water.  

Scott has finished covering all of the cisterns but we aren’t sure what to do with the open, in-ground pools that aren’t screened.  We may have to empty those and fill them in somehow.  Now that we are picking up regular radio broadcasts again we’ve been hearing that some insect borne diseases are making a comeback around the coasts and inland water sources.  Waleski is running around like a nut trying to locate info and figure out ways to prevent and/or treat cases of stuff like cholera, yellow fever and a lot of other stuff we haven’t had to deal with on a regular basis since early last century. 

What was really scary was a report out of the Texas quarantine zone – an area where most people prefer to call themselves citizens of the Republic of Texas – of a typhoid epidemic.   Early on when we were scavenging the health facilities around University Hospital Waleski grabbed all of the routine vaccines and gave everyone, adults included, boosters of the vaccines that didn’t require refrigeration.  And then when we were scavenging downtown they went through the County Health Clinic there on Kennedy Blvd. and he grabbed most everything else he could find. 

The County Health Clinic over that way is where a lot of folks from this area used to get their traveling vaccines; the ones that are required to enter certain countries.  Rose and James had gotten some of them already because they went on some mission trips to places that required them.  They had the typhoid vaccine as well as the one for meningitis.  Scott got those two plus the one for yellow fever when he went to South America on business a couple of years ago.  Our whole family has both the HepA and HepB vaccines as well as the MMR and boosters where necessary because of the clientele we rent to. 

Our family was the exception to the rule however and except for the military and National Guard personnel that had served over seas most everyone else received an extensive list of shots.  Waleski gave everyone as many of the updated vaccines as he could but vaccines are never 100% effective and don’t replace precautions.  Vaccines also do not offer lifetime protection.  I think the longest that a vaccine will cover you is the lifetime coverage of the polio vaccine followed probably by the up to 10 years offered by the Tetanus vaccine (Tdap).  But the flu vaccine only lasts a year at most and even the typhoid vaccine will only last two years.  Hopefully every vaccine will give us a buffer of protection to get us through the next couple of years and after that massive epidemics will go down or disappear … I hope. 

The food storehouse is looking pretty good.  I figured out a way to get more storage shelving in each room.  The really heavy stuff sits on shelves that have been screwed into the studs around the edges of the walls but rather than wasting all that floor space I added long, sturdy shelves on wheels.  Scott has helped modify and/or build a bunch of shelves like this so that when the shelves are being rolled the stuff doesn’t fall off the shelf or fall over on the shelf and make a mess.   

Let me see if I can explain it.  Say you have a 12 x 12 foot room.  On three sides of the room you have 24-inch wide shelves from floor to ceiling.  That means that you have a 10 x 10 foot space that is pretty useless smack dab in the middle; space that would be really useful.  You really only need about three feet wide walk ways to be able to work in.  That means that I could still have another 7 foot long strip of space.  That means I can put four more 18-inch wide shelves in that space if I pushed them right up onto each other.  But that would make it difficult to access everything and keep it rotated properly.  But with the shelving on wheels they can be moved back and forth one at a time and you could continue to have at least a three foot wide walking path.   

OK, it’s not a perfect solution and accidents are bound to happen but if the national archives can do it for their paper files I don’t see why I can’t utilize a variation of it for our food supplies.  I tell you it’s really let me organize things a lot better and I haven’t had to utilize quite so many of those plastic tubs that sometimes collapse under the weight of anything stacked on them.   In bigger rooms where this system doesn’t make a lot of sense I had the guys install shelving that we scavenged from Keel Library and that has worked really well too. 

I’m really getting into the swing of things and this is something the littles can help me with.  Get enough little rugrats going and you can move an amazing amount of cans in no time.  Nothing broke and only a couple of cans were dented.  That’s a good day.  I would like to finish it up tomorrow but I don’t think that will happen.  For one I promised the kids that I’d do some special cooking for St. Patrick’s Day.  For another it is Baking Day and we really do need to do that tomorrow.  I have a couple of bread recipes that I want to try out to stretch out the wheat flour we have remaining. 

We are also going to go through a lot of the “dry goods” (non-food items) that we stored in the steel containers and pull out stuff that Aldea might need.  And all of that is going on while the Aldea folks begin to pack up their households so that everything can be hauled over to their new home.   

I did mention something to Scott and I hope he mentions it to Glenn and Matlock.  People that aren’t used to living in apartments may have an adjustment reaction to living in those steel storage containers.  I know they will be remodeling them as time goes along but I worry they are going to be a little dark and cramped.  While I was working in the food storehouse – which can be dark and stifling as well – I thought it might be nice if they go to the New Orleans or Charleston way of doing things.  You have what amounts to a shotgun type house and then you have these really wonderful porches and patios where most of the living is actually done.  In New Orleans there are some beautiful (were some?) cast iron balconies on the second and third floors of buildings that let people take advantage of any breeze that happened to come through.  In Charleston they have the same type thing only under roof and they are called piazzas and they were as large as a veranda and serve basically the same purpose.  Just seems like a way to have the best of both worlds to me.  And if they want to screen in the piazzas that would be even better. 

Well, James just got in from guard duty and Scott is ready to head off so I need to see him out the door.  I hope tomorrow is as fine a day as today was.  I need more of those.

Day 229 (Saturday) – March 17 – St. Patrick’s Day

Happy St. Paddy’s Day!  And as you can see for the occasion I’ve pulled out a green gel pen.  Yeah, I know, more than a little on the silly side but I feel the need for a little silliness. 

One of the last breakfasts we will all have together and the kids are already bitterly complaining about being separated.  Many of them had become quite close.  Everyone will survive but I think it will be at least as hard on the kids as it will be on the adults.  And because I’m a big marshmallow I let the kids talk me into celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with some special cooking. 

Breakfast was green eggs and ham and pastel green gumdrop quick bread.  For drinks there was green milk and green juice.  I even managed to make green butter and I colored just a little bit of pineapple preserves green as well.  The kids loved it, even the older ones laughed.  Some of the adults on the other hand had to close their eyes in order to eat.   

Matlock looked a little green around the gills as he was trying to swallow.  Scott and James who have both had to put up with my weird fits and starts over the years had warned David ahead of time and all three wolfed down their breakfast.  All Angus said was that I had better not have messed with the coffee.  Hmmm … not that I wouldn’t have but I couldn’t figure out how to make something so dark into a green color.   

I didn’t stop there either.  At lunch we had green tinged Deviled Eggs, pickles, green tortillas that they stuffed with lettuce and a few other things I had set out.  The kids had green Limeade to drink that I added some neon green food coloring to.  At tea time I had green shamrock shaped cookies and “green tea” and for dinner there was cabbage, green beans, and green tinted mashed potatoes to go with a large pork roast from one of the culled hogs.  To top it off I made green Jell-O parfaits with green tinted Dream Whip and a green maraschino cherry on top. 

I have to admit by the end of the day even I was getting a little sick of the color green.  And Angus finally changed into a green kilt because all the kids kept trying to give him a pinch.  I did happen to notice however that a bottle of Bailey’s was missing out of the store house and so was a bottle of green food coloring that somehow found its way into a batch of hooch.  Guess I wasn’t the only one getting silly today.  I hope their heads don’t ache too badly in the morning.  If they toss their cookies from the hangover and see all that green you can bet they’ll just get all that much sicker. 

Aside from the silliness we did get quite a bit of constructive work accomplished.  Scott has managed to get the last house that was in complete disrepair taken down here inside the Wall.  He’s also marked off where he wants to add another gate into the Wall.  It’s on the north side and makes sense.  It will be a minor gate to start with; mostly for human traffic or small vehicles.  If it turns out that we start using the gate quite a bit he’s made the plans flexible enough so that the gate can grow into one about the size of the front gatehouse with the same security features. 

We did a lot of baking today and I have to say that the new recipes I tried out were really fantastic.  First I found a lot of dried beans in our storage that were way, way, way passed their “best used by” dates.  I had tried a few of each bean to see if they would rehydrate well but had very poor results.  Rather than toss the beans or feed them to the animals I decided to make bean flour with them.  

To save us a lot of work I hooked up an electric grinder to one of the battery powered sources and ground the beans as fine as bread flour.  It took a while even with the electric grinder so I’m really glad I wasn’t doing it by hand.  Once I had a good supply of bean flour I substituted 30% of the wheat flour for bean flour in my regular bread recipe.  Of the different bean flours that I tried the garbanzo bean flour turned out with the best flavor in my opinion. 

I also ground some rice up this way and made rice flour.  I could substitute 30% of the wheat flour this way as well.  I had several boxes of barley that we needed to do something with so I made barley flour as well and I could substitute up to 50% of the wheat flour that way.  I’ve got some other books I needed to go through and I’m hoping to find some whole grain bread recipes to use so I don’t have to grind anything down. 

While the bread was baking Betty, Reba, and I sat around making plans.  The kids don’t know it yet but come April Fool’s Day they are going to start back with an organized school schedule.  I don’t know what they have planned for the kids going to Aldea but the kids staying here are going to get a traditional education whether they want one or not.  I’m sure I’m going to have problems with James and Betty and Reba think they’ll have problems with some of the older Morris kids as well but we are all determined to do this.  Tomorrow we are going to get together again and I’ll bring a list of resources that I have and we’ll try and piece out a lesson plan and some goals.   

As soon as the Aldea folks are firmly settled Angus and Jim said they are going to go for a little ride.  I think they mean to go nosing around south of here and see what kind of trouble they can get into.  The NRS infecteds have finally dropped back down to what they were before the Hive came along but all that says is that it is still going to be dangerous as all get.  They are equipping Juicer with better communication devices so hopefully it won’t be like they enter a black hole and we don’t hear from them again until they come banging on the gate.   

Scott keeps talking around it, but I know he wants to go on another run to the north; maybe even passed the state line and over into Georgia.  As you can guess I’m not terribly thrilled by the idea but it’s a bit inevitable.  I’m sure there are going to be things that we need to trade for.  Apples for one but that won’t be until August or September.  Before that, maybe in July, we are going to need to see about trading for some wheat.  That’s assuming any was planted this year by people willing to bargain for it and that we have what they are interested in. 

I guess I should just go ahead and put this in but I’m afraid whoever reads this down the road is going to think I’m being judgmental.  I don’t mean to be but I’m just having a problem reconciling this with my admittedly conservative take on things.  Seems it wasn’t the adult women that I should have been wondering about in terms of who was going to get caught pregnant next.   

I knew Brandon and Josephine were an “item.”  I knew they were close and I knew that they were likely treading a very fine line when it came to how they were conducting themselves in private.  Jim and I had found that little lover’s nest and I had considered the possibility it was their trysting place even then.  But I hadn’t really considered it any of my business.  They weren’t within my sphere of discipline; or at least that was how I rationalized not getting involved.   

I also tried to tell myself that having Maddie around all the time had to be cramping their style.  Apparently not.  Josephine is six to eight weeks pregnant and she’s only sixteen years old.  For some odd reason Rose is angry about this.  When I try and talk to her about it she shuts me out.  I’ll give her the night to cool off and then I’ll try again tomorrow.  It’s just such an unusual reaction that I’d like to know what is causing it.  I mean I’m not happy about it and I think they could have used more restraint and commonsense but I’m not seething or anything.  Rose is really PO’d and that’s not like her at all. 

Now we have four pregnant females.  Rhonda is about eight and a half months pregnant.  Patricia is 29 weeks along and continues to weaken though she is doing her best to hang in there.  I went over and helped Jack do a few things around the house and Patricia slept nearly the entire time.  She is all baby, her arms and legs are too thin and the other women and I are trying to come up with something that will put some extra calories into her diet.  Becky is fifteen weeks along but she is going to Aldea so I won’t see her as much.  Terra will be the midwife over there and she and Ski have been coordinating a few things just in case of emergencies.  And now Josephine.  I am so glad that I no longer have to worry about getting pregnant.  I just can’t get it out of my head that Rose is so bent out of shape.  I’m definitely going to have to figure out what that is all about.  My imagination is running a little wild at the moment and skittering over possibilities that I don’t even want to contemplate. 

Tomorrow is Rest Day but it promises to be a busy one so I’m going to toddle on off to bed.  I don’t have guard duty tonight and neither does Scott.  It is rare that we are both off on the same night so we plan on making the most of it.  


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