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Vaxdemic Chapter 16

talexratcliffeNov 28, 2021, 11:56:15 AM

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I don’t think I’ve ever had to go without air conditioning. It’s never been something I’ve thought about until recently when we put up the heaters for the warmer months, and the first hot days hit. I really miss a/c. It started getting hot early this year and for the first that I can remember I woke up sweating. 

I’m really tempted to turn on the central air but I’m worried about the power system. I’ve been troubleshooting and balancing it out over the last month. It can easily run the lights and small electronics. It will even run the washer and dryer after a quick modification to allow my collected water to fill the washer. We use the oven, microwave and fridge too much to not account for them. The only sacrifice we could really make was the heater. We have lots of propane and enough heaters that used it, we didn’t need the central system. Now I can’t justify taxing the system with central air.

I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining, but there’s just no other word for it. The regulator box that runs the system has a limit and we’re close to it now. It has a warning light I assume means too much power is being drawn and we need that thing to last long enough for me to figure out a substitute.

Ruth likes the heat so at least she’s happy. I’ve been keeping a closer eye on her since I had to walk through that nightmare of hospital to get her medicine. Most of the time she’s so sharp you would never know she had a problem. It’s only been a few evenings I’ve seen her slip. She has a habit of telling the same stories she’s told me at least a hundred times before. She’s caught me watching her and told me not to worry. When I try to do some of her chores, she tells me to quit babying her. I’m not sure what I should do, but if she’s happy doing what she’s doing I won’t stop her.

She was really happy this week because she says it’s harvest time. Since the water storage I have in the yard doesn’t make enough pressure to run a garden hose we’ve been watering by hand. By the second week of this I was already drawing up plans for an irrigation system using some of the spare PVC I have. I only installed it in one field before I ran out of pipe but it has lowered the time required each day.

This isn’t exactly our first harvest. Ruth has been harvesting some of the herbs and drying them with a dehydrator we found in a neighbor’s house, but this will be our first taste of the veggies. It’s a good thing too since we’re almost out of the pre-canned stuff. We started with the cabbage. If you’ve never seen a cabbage in the field, I can tell you now, it’s hard to tell a mature from a not mature cabbage. It’s a ball of leaves surrounded by other leaves. Ruth says they’re ready so I guess it’s time to start picking. Ruth showed me “her trick” to pick them right. She helped me for the first half of the first day before she left to start canning.

I say canning but that’s not correct. Ruth is turning most of the cabbage into sauerkraut. I say canning because she’s using jars and that’s what she told me canning was so I’m sticking with it. After picking cabbages for nearly ten hours it was time for dinner. Ruth made venison and cabbage; I think it was meant to be like corned beef and cabbage. I was hesitant about the boiled concoction, but it was far better than it had a right to be. Ruth had a bowl and I finished off the pot.

I was just about ready to do some research before I went to bed when Ruth called me to the kitchen. She insisted on teaching me how to make sauerkraut. I was going to protest until she added that she didn’t want to die and I not know how to preserve food. I think she’s using guilt as a weapon.

It wasn’t too difficult to make. It’s basically just shredded cabbage and salt mixed together in a large bowl. You rub the mix together to make the juice of the cabbage come out, then you put in in jars and pack down till the cabbage juice covers the shreds or the jar is nearly full and you have to add brine. We made two batches before it got dark and it was time to go to bed.

I’ve been sleeping a lot better these days. Much better than before everything stopped and I had to start doing almost everything for myself. It maybe that I actually sleep at night, or maybe it’s just that I do a lot more physical work than I used to. I’m a lot stronger than when I started, but that’s not saying much.

I finished the cabbage field the next day. Then it was time to move on to the onions. Once again Ruth showed me what to do before returning to her canning. Dinner that night was so much better with the addition of fresh onions and garlic which Ruth picked special. We don’t have any butter and only a bit of cooking oil. So most of what we eat is boiled or roasted in some way. I’ve started dreaming of finding a cow so we can make butter, or have steak my dream self can’t seem to decide. Most of my dreams are about food, when they’re not nightmares of hospitals full of corpses.

According to Ruth we don’t can onions, we hang them, but first they have to “cure” by hanging them, but supposedly both are different. The house next to mine had a covered porch which Ruth had me hang some fencing wire in. She says that curing requires the onions to dry but they can’t be in direct sunlight. She showed me how to hang the onions the first afternoon for drying. The next day I went back to harvesting. Our onion crop was huge and we ran out of hanging space quickly. Ruth had me remove the screens from one of the houses we don’t use and make “drying boxes which she used to cure the remaining onions. She said it may take a week or two to finish before we could tie them and hang them for long term storage. I moved on to the carrots.

Ruth taught me a different way to water the carrots earlier that spring. She said carrots have to be watered deep and precisely so they will grow long and won’t split. It was annoying to treat them so differently but I decided to trust her. When it came time to harvest, Ruth made me wet the ground first. Apparently, it makes it easier to remove the carrots. I guess it worked because it was the easiest to harvest, though we didn’t do the whole field. Ruth said carrots store best in the dirt, plus we needed to get seeds from a few. This was the first vegetable we actually canned. It took less time to harvest the carrots we took than it did to can them. I spent a good portion of the next day with a vegetable peeler and a bucket of carrots. Ruth used the tops to make a salad. I never knew the leafy part of the carrot tastes more like a carrot than the part we normally eat. Also, carrots have a stronger taste than I thought, in fact most of what we’ve grown does. I’ve always thought of veggies as tasteless until now.

Now that the spring harvest was done it was time to turn the soil again and plant the summer crop. Ruth had been preparing in her greenhouse for this. I spent the next day planting tomato and pepper plants. Then came time for the squashes We’re apparently growing eggplant, zucchini, and pumpkins which get a field all to themselves. Lastly one field of corn. Ruth made me leave some room at the end of one field, where she had me erect some trellises for green beans.

After a week of planting all the available spots were full. I heard Ruth lament that we didn’t have any potatoes. When I asked her were to get the seeds, she said they were usually sold as starters and almost no one carried seeds. After thinking about what she said I started to wonder how long it would be before I ate French fries again. Then I remembered we didn’t even have oil to cook them in.

Disappointment for my lost starches would have to wait. With the planting done and it being May I had another job. First, I had to locate any fruit trees I could find so we could not only harvest them but get the seeds to grow trees closer to home. I was now solely responsible for our meat. The small deer I brought home before was almost entirely gone with the exception of a few bones Abby and Rusty chewed on. Abby was now a portly dog as she seems to get more pregnant by the day. This also meant she had to say home while I foraged.

The city has quickly become a jungle of over grown lawns and weeds. It’s amazing where grass will grow without human intervention. Medians without trees are now low walls of grass and the sounds of insects is deafening. Ruth told me what to look for. Apple trees have white blossoms, cherries white to pink, lemon are white, yellow, and purple, and plums and apples range from white to red. These are the only fruit that grow in this climate with any real success. I brought a small note book to mark the address of the fruit trees I find on my hunts.

For the first few days I thought they were everywhere. Then Ruth told me to bring back the flowers for her to be sure. Turns out a lot of trees have colored flowers and don’t grow fruit. These also tend to be the trees the city is most fond of. Before I started my hunt, I couldn’t tell one tree from another. After 13 failures to find a fruiting tree I started to improve. It turns out there are a lot of ways to tell trees apart. You can tell by the leaves, bark, and flowers if you know what you’re looking for. I think I need to get a note book and document what I find since I haven’t found a book on trees yet.

I am getting better at hunting. As of writing this I have killed three deer and two turkeys. Ruth told me I need to find a book on leather working so I can make something from the deer hide. I’m starting to notice signs that animals have been around. It’s not so hard when you spend every other day looking for game. I’ve also noticed signs that something big is lurking around. Actually a few big things. I can’t help thinking that cougar has found his way to my neighborhood.

There’s another big animal I think I’ve seen signs of, I noticed it by accident. When you start hunting you start to notice not just how animals move, but how you move. I noticed I’ve been leaving marks on walls when I stay close to buildings. I’ve since stopped making those marks, but something or someone hasn’t.

Bob Stackey

May 20, 2022

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