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[FICTION]Tom & family go for their vaccines...
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  1. #161
    Join Date
    May 2001
    Kingston, Ontario, Canada

    early morning, 18/04/03

    It's too early in the morning really, to be writing a journal entry, but I've been awake since just past 4 & am too excited or nervous to get back to sleep. If I do any more pacing around, I'm going to wake the whole house & they need these last 90 minutes or so of sleep. Poor MT, she's been stuck doing most of the entries for the last little while & this Journal was after all, my idea! I woke up needing to use the washroom - knew I should have passed on that last glass of juice last night but excitement was making my mouth feel too dry. I can put this time to good use, writing this & getting the kitchen fire & hot water for tea & coffee going. I've looked outside & it's a clear sky -not a cloud blocking the stars. Dawn will be here soon & with it, our first day of real work.

    If it weren’t for the fact that I'd wake the house, I'd head out & start the barn chores. The animals wouldn't be too impressed though especially the horses as they're in for a long enough day. Mark & Annette gave them some nice hot oat mash last night, a 'stick to equine ribs' meal. I've thought too of heading across the road & leaving our neighbours another note but we’re not to leave the property without others being aware of it, so that's out. I'm too excited to read & everything we could possibly need is ready. It should be; all of us have checked a dozen times or more.

    MT mentioned she's written more about the new neighbours than of recent developments in the local community, so I'll catch up on that news. With the radio station having received fuel for their generators, broadcasts are continuing, every 2 to 4 hours. They now try to broadcast at eight, noon, four, eight & midnight & advise people to tune in every 2 hours in between those times, in case anything new comes in that requires immediate transmission. First, our local population is at 1156, including births we've had. The newscasters noted that other than Ottawa, Lasalle & Sterling, they're the only station on the air in this part of the state. They're limiting registration of people to 25 miles out from downtown as that pretty much delineates the municipality's area of responsibility. I'll have to have Annette draw a map for the Journal & add to it as we learn about more groups, but most people are currently clustered either in town or within 5 - 10 miles of downtown on farms.

    Wonderful news, we now have 2 doctors & 3 registered nurses, all of which are working out of the 1 doctor's downtown office. Currently, they're open as required with someone always at the office & both doctors carry walkie talkies. The office is pleading for 'd' cell batteries as their stock of those is running low. With the walkie talkies, they can be called from the office should their services be required. So far, they report that most of their work has involved dealing with minor injuries - cuts & burns. They've repeated their warnings that people be extremely careful with candles, lanterns & any open flame as well as sharp tools. About 15 women in town or close to it are pregnant & the clinic stated that anyone living further out who may be having a first baby or who may be alone might wish to come in at least once to be checked out. One of the RN's is also a post-graduate in midwifery & she's willing to travel out to more distant locations in order to perform prenatal exams. She'll be giving a short daily broadcast - about 5 minutes in length, discussing various aspects of labour & delivery. Thankfully, she & the other medical people are reminding mothers to be that pregnancy is NOT an illness, that most moms will do fine, as will their babies. We don't have to worry about that here for some months, but the reminder from a doctor can't help but be reassuring to our expectant moms.

    The mayor gave his daily report yesterday at four; usually he tries to do so at noon, but he was out having a look at the work the body disposal teams are doing. He reports that the work is going well. Bodies are being collected quickly & with respect, (he stressed that point) & brought to the quarry. Currently, the concern is the ability to burn the corpses. While the city has various fuels available for this job, they would prefer to use liquid fuels simply as "starter fuel". He apologetically asked for donations of well-seasoned firewood. His thinking is that wood can be interspaced with the bodies - this is currently being done & periodically, liquid fuels poured over the pile & lit, turning the pile into a pyre. That sounds perfectly awful, yet must be done. A minister goes to the quarry once or twice a day & has taken it upon himself to read a service & say prayers. Being mindful that all faiths are probably represented in that quarry, he's keeping it as ecumenical as possible. Awfully good of him to do so.

    A side note - the Minister, Pastor Stephen Erickson has announced that he's 'open for business'. The churches are too large to try & heat so he's presently using a Veterans' Hall downtown for services. He'll be holding daily services he said at 9 in the morning Monday through Wednesday, two in the afternoon Thursday & Friday & evening services beginning at seven o'clock on Saturdays & Sundays. He said he's varying the times to permit people to come when their schedule permits. He added that when he was not preaching or visiting people, he'd be at the Hall as often as possible & was available for counselling, fellowship, baptisms, marriages & weddings. Pastor Erickson has been a pastor here for 4 years now. He was new to this area, a single man & has been well received by those in his Congregation. He's a pleasant fellow, warm & very open - easy to talk to. I like him - he doesn't pretend to have all the answers but can somehow comfort you even when telling you that! He will be, fuel allowing, preaching for half an hour every Sunday shortly before lunchtime. That will be wonderful for those unable to get into town.

    Back to the mayor & his comments. He once again thanked those in the community supporting his efforts to work for the town. Currently some 70 people are removing bodies from homes, businesses & streets & another dozen or so are seeing to their needs. The mayor & his City Hall staff now number 5. There is himself, 2 clerks, and a senior employee who was formerly part of the town's public works department & a janitor! Now these people are simply doing what work is required, never mind their former titles. The mayor told all within hearing that currently they're concentrating on putting the lists of people in some sort of order. He's got someone working on alphabetical & another few people listing groups along with their skills. I bet they miss computers. It sure makes such list making easier. As that is completed, he then wants to concentrate on "surveying" the urban area of our town. That will consist of checking buildings, counting what is still there as opposed to burned down or collapsed & reaffirming visually what buildings can still be occupied. Those buildings destroyed by fire, looting or collapse from the snow will contain materials suitable for use in other buildings or homes.

    He also would like to put together an information package for people here, consisting of maps - he has lots of those available & weather & crop data for this area. Unfortunately, much of the latter will be old & perhaps out of date. IN the past few decades, there's been an increasing reliance on the net, downloading current weather data, dates deemed best to plant certain crops etc. Drew says where this may prove to be a problem is the fact that weather has been anything but typical these past 10 or so years. I can vouch for that - most years we go from one extreme to another, Witness this winter. It's been a long time since we had this much snow. Most farmers keep pretty detailed records however & thankfully, Drew always made a few hard copies of his computer files. He's send one in to town with Sarah when she & Alex go collect the men next week.

    The mayor also mentioned doing some sort of survey of local roads, seeing which need to be detoured or which require an amount of work easily handled by a few men, shovels & gravel. Anything bigger, washouts & the like will simply have to be marked as impassable. He mentioned he'd thought of trying to set up roadblocks in case of trouble, but that there were too many ways into town & not enough people to man them. He's simply asked people to be vigilant & is trying to figure out some sort of "Distant Early Warning" system outlying people can use to warn others of trouble. We're thinking about that here too.

    Eventually, some sort of law enforcement is going to be required. The mayor hopes most people will be too busy in the next few months to even think about stirring up trouble, but he'll be hunting for a few police officers to respond to problems. He also wants to think about some response to fire; bucket brigades, etc. These matters may seem laughably basic, but they must the thought about & dealt with, as must garbage collection. For now, we burn what we have - it's extra fuel if it's combustible anyway.

    Ah, I hear some stirring from upstairs. I'd best hurry to the kitchen & make sure tea & coffee are close to ready. MT will be monitoring our efforts today & writing some notes as we progress throughout the day. Now, time to go prepare to get some blisters!
    More of my thoughts on flu/health matters and the latest news can be found at [url=]The Laboratory[/url].

  2. #162
    Join Date
    May 2001
    Kingston, Ontario, Canada

    18 April, 2003

    Well now finally, it's ploughing day! I feel as though we've been waiting forever & I'm almost as excited as I would have been as a young girl anticipating a birthday surprise. I certainly hope we have no surprises today. Good ones might serve as a distraction & bad ones would be... bad. We've all had breakfast, morning chores such as they are today, are done & almost everyone is outdoors either doing or watching the first team prepare to plough. I'm 'allowed' outdoors later, but for now, Tom has asked me to start today's Journal entry by writing what has happened so far this morning, the weather & other ordinary facts. After all, in the family annals, this is a historical day! How often have we all read history & hoped for mundane information; the sort of information rarely given in history texts or great tomes written by scholars? Not being hampered by scholarship, I'll do my best to oblige Tom in his request.

    First, it's eight thirty. I suppose our ancestors would laugh, thinking we're dreadfully late starting but they had the advantage of being used to this type of work. We were all up by six this morning except for our self designated "whale pod", our pregnant young ladies. They've been calling themselves that for a week or more now, saying they feel more like stranded pilot whales when they're sitting or lying then they do fit young women! They slept or at least stayed in bed until six thirty. By the time they were up, everyone else was washed, dressed, had visited the outhouse or chamber pot & was sitting down to breakfast. That, (Tom wanted to be sure I added that in), consisted of his famous flapjacks, French toast & home fried potatoes for most, along with 1 egg per person. We're trying to go easy on the eggs until we hatch our new laying hens.

    It's a mild day, mostly sunny with just a few very high, wispy clouds. There's a soft breeze blowing & it's already close to 50 degrees. Drew hopes it will get close to 60 today. Everyone is wearing jeans & medium weight work shirts with most also wearing light windbreakers & hats. I see a few shivering a bit, but it will warm up quickly. Drew & Tom dragged my easy chair into the kitchen this morning after cleanup as a window there provides the best view of the 2 acres they're going to TRY & plough today. I saw try because of course, all manner of problems could crop up - pun fully intended! I'm to basically sit here & spend most of the day watching the work. I told Tom I was darned if I spent the entire day in this chair. As much as I like it, I'm not completely infirm & do not relish the idea of being stuck in this chair all day. Hardly necessary in any case but I suspect Tom simply wants to ensure I miss nothing important.

    I'll be doing this entry off & on all day, between excursions outdoors, trips to the outhouse & work here in the kitchen. Currently, I'm watching all but myself & Jean who's off checking a sick calf stand around solemnly looking at the field. Ah here comes Tom... must have forgotten something!

    Yes, Tom had forgotten something indeed. Before starting the work, they all wished to say a prayer. Tom preferred to find an appropriate passage from the Bible & simply wanted to borrow mine. I'll have to ask him what passage they chose when I think about it.

    Where was I? Yes, after breakfast, the children ganged up on the dishes & tidying up the kitchen while the others dealt with normal chores, feeding & watering the livestock & thank goodness, all save the chickens spent the night out so there was no mucking out to do. Jean, Drew & Noreen separated out & brought in 2 calves that appear to be unwell along with their mothers. The boys took 15 minutes or so to gather eggs & see to the hens & rooster. Then, chores all done, everyone waited for Mark, Annette & Drew to bring out the harnessed team. Drew & Morgan had already wrestled one of the ploughs up to the edge of the field yesterday evening.

    I'm looking out the window now. They've finished attaching the plough to the team & with Mark steadying the head of one of the mares, they're about to plough their first furrow. It's so sweet to see the foals dancing around; wondering what all the unusual activity is about. Here we go; Drew has just pulled on his gloves & taken up the reins. He nods to Mark & yes! The horses are slowly moving forward. Oh my, a bit of hesitation from 1 left sided mare as the plough bites in, but she's fine now. Must have just wanted to know what the unexpected resistance was. This is looking good. Drew has moved them forward, quite slowly, about 30 feet now & everyone is slowly following along the edge of the field. The kids keep trying to jump up & down with excitement but Noreen is shushing them, not wanting to startle the horses.

    There now, first furrow ploughed & in only 15 or so minutes. NOW everyone is cheering & clapping, sending the foals scurrying to the far end of the field. The plan is to get the kids away now & find something more productive for them to do while the ploughing teams settled into their job. That won't be difficult, there's never a shortage of tasks, jobs, chores & duties around here. The boys are going to be mucking out the chicken coop again - not that this will take much time to finish. The girls will start by yanking weeds around the front & back porch - they're starting to grow already & it will give them some idea of what sorts of things they'll have to uproot once we start. The hour or so they'll have left before lunch is to be spent doing schoolwork. This morning, Tom has asked them all to write or dictate to me, their impressions of Ploughing Day. They also have some reading to do.

    Cindy & Louise will be in soon, beginning to prepare lunch. I think today, we'll be eating on the porch is it gets warm enough. It's still a bit chilly for that, but we might as well get used to it. One child, Carol right now, is staying with the ploughing team, ready to run in any messages or requests. Mark & Annette have haltered the 2 foals with the mares hitched to the ploughs & are using this time as an opportunity to halter break them. It's easy. They simply snap a short lead to the halter & lead the foals where they want to be going anyway, with their moms. At the end of each furrow, they'll turn the foals to follow the mares. That sounds fairly simple. The hard part will come later, when they start trying to lead them away from the mares for 15 or so feet. Mark says with patience, you can make the foals think they WANT to do that & accomplishing this makes the task much easier.

    Almost lunch & I've been watching the men try their hand at ploughing. Morgan's finding it difficult, Drew says he needs to be a tad more firm. Morgan's response to that is that it's difficult to look & act in a firm manner when you don't know what the heck you're doing! Jake looks like a natural behind a plough & even Alex is getting the hang of it. Drew has had them each do a furrow, but reserves turning the teams for himself - for now. The horses are doing just fine; no real effort required yet as the land is well worked & not presenting any unanticipated problems. I spoke too soon. One strap just broke on the right side mare's harness. Don't ask me what strap, obviously one that takes some strain. There, Tom has the replacement ready... & back to work!

    Lunchtime has just been announced. I'd best put this down in a safe place.

    The ploughing has been continuing for about an hour now. Drew has everyone in turn ploughing several furrows & so far so good. Sarah, Jake & Alex seem to have the trick. Jean too & Anne. Maxine still looks tentative & Morgan is finding it difficult to keep the plough straight. Drew has encouraged both Mark & Annette to have a try. Mark is doing well; Annette doesn't quite have the strength. She'll get it, Drew tells us. I must say though, this is not a set of furrows that would do well in any ploughing match. They waver & wander & some blend right into others. Drew told me at lunch that ploughing an acre, properly, shouldn't take more than a few hours. It's slow here because no one knows what they're doing, not the horses nor the people. Tomorrow he said, the acre will be done over again & hopefully, with better results.

    Mark & Annette switched to the second team after lunch. Perhaps it was the warmer weather or the air of excitement, but it took that team about 15 minutes to decide to settle down. We thought we'd break more harness as the younger mare tried to rear up. Only the weight of the gelding kept her down. He must have had enough of her nonsense as after a few minutes of this, he snapped at her neck & she quieted over a few minutes. Drew put Jake & Mark at their heads & walked them around for another 15 minutes or so until the eye rolling & startling stopped. They're working well now, but still seem skittish. The furrows are slowly getting straighter, but there's a long way to go there.

    The children are spending some time tidying up the yard & Tom has them "measuring" the distance between various buildings & outbuildings, the fence etc. - some mapping project her has them doing. Once that's done, they'll be coming in & doing more work on that; trying to estimate real distances based on their paces, then doing some math work. Then, back outside to pick up & remove small rocks from the ploughed portions of the kitchen garden. Parts of the road from the front gate into the farmyard have developed sinkholes. Before 'wasting' good gravel on such holes though, Drew prefers to use any smaller rocks they plough turns up. It also gives the kids some practice in removing those & keeps them busy.

    Just took an hour or so to help with supper preps - another roast of beef tonight. That's been in the oven for hours, but vegetables needed preparing...

    Ploughing seems about done for the day. They've completed the first acre or so & furrows look a bit... I'll be generous & say uneven. If I were NOT being generous, I'd have to admit they're wavering everywhere, crooked, etc. Think of a path in the snow woven by a very inebriated individual. But as I've mentioned here, Drew has privately told me that they'll do the other acre tomorrow, allowing everyone more practice, then over the next day or so, redo the job & hopefully, get straight furrows. Even Drew's had trouble. His furrows are a bit straighter, but there is some definite "detours" along his furrows!

    Annette & Mark are taking the horses back to the barn after much praise for them from all involved - praise & some chunks of apple & carrot. They'll be unharnessing them, giving them a good grooming & carefully checking for any sore spots or signs of chafing. Jean will double check for them. Everyone looks quite fatigued, more I think from the excitement than the volume of work. They'll all sleep well tonight & tomorrow will be tired for the right reasons - much effort.

    It's still early, only about three thirty or so, but everyone wants a chance to get properly cleaned up, eat & do evening chores before they feel exhausted. I suspect tonight's gathering will be short. Drew is looking over the plough, I see & Morgan is looking at the field, shaking his head. The kids are still out there, looking like a flock of birds trying to steal seed. They've taken out a surprising number of rocks, from fist sized to almost gravel. None of them would seriously hamper potato growing, but as Drew & Tom said, it's good practice for real stone work later. I believe Sarah wants to harness up 1 of her dogs tomorrow & have it pull a wagon around, waiting for stones. Once the wagon is full of stones, it can be pulled to the driveway & holes filled. If we find more stones than holes to fill, (likely), Drew has identified a spot to start piling rocks, stones & gravel bits.

    God bless, all...
    There we are - everyone is indoors, changed & washed & ready to gather in the kitchen to discuss our day. Tom has told me he'll write this evening's entry as he says he's still "on a high" & not likely to want to go to sleep too early. So I'm off to wash up myself & will resume writing tomorrow.
    More of my thoughts on flu/health matters and the latest news can be found at [url=]The Laboratory[/url].

  3. #163
    Join Date
    May 2001
    Kingston, Ontario, Canada

    evening, 18/04/03

    Finally got the first real day of spring work done & even though I know our ploughing leaves much to be desired right now, it feels GOOD to have started. In spite of crooked furrows, everything went very well. I "cheated" & took a peek at MT's entry for today - although we're supposed to wait some years before reading the Journal. I simply wanted to make sure she left nothing out & I will confess & apologise later. I shouldn't have... but I had to! Check her entry that is.

    Now what did she miss? Nothing terribly important at all, just perhaps little details. It stayed warm & breezy all day & did get to almost 65 degrees. Tomorrow promises to be a little warmer & Drew has said we'll start earlier. We're going to have to if part of the intent of today & the next few days is to get us ready for what really lies ahead. This is simply ploughing up & planting a few acres - not the main crops.

    Man, I have so much running through my head right now; thoughts, feelings, impressions. I expect I'll forget half of them; that or end up with diarrhea of the pen. No matter, at sometime in the future, this may prove helpful to somebody even if it's only to elaborate on how THIS aging man felt at the dawn(?) of our new way of life. So I'll just let my pen go & let's see what comes out...

    First, impressions, thoughts & feelings about the day. Even though I was up early, I'm still not prepared to sleep. Tomorrow night perhaps & thankfully Anne has stopped nagging me about such things. Just as well, I refuse to become a "patient" even if I did have a minor heart attack. That was months ago & I've dropped a good 25 pounds. I was surprised, convinced I'd lost more weight than that as I look much thinner. Anne reminded me I've probably added muscle. It looks leaner but weighs more. Whatever it is, I know my belt is a comfortable 3 notches tighter & I certainly eat properly. The odd late night or early morning won't kill me.

    It was funny at breakfast, half of us had runaway mouths, chattering on & on about not a whole lot. The other half barely opened their mouths except to shoevl in more food or drink. We all worked quickly to clean up this morning, but I don't think we saved much time. There were too many of us in the kitchen & too much excitement, too little planning or doing. Tomorrow, it's back to normal in terms of kitchen chores... forget which kids are on this week, but they can do it tomorrow. Also, I don't care how meticulous Cindy wants to get, we don't have time to sweep up every crumb once we're into real farm work. As much as we all like a neat house & clean floor, it's not a priority in the morning. Cindy can do it herself if it matters that much to her & if she can find the time.

    Mark & Annette really have got the knack of harnessing up the horses now. As Drew pointed out, the most important part is that they do it in a matter of fact fashion. According to him, that keeps the horses from becoming too wound up. Annette popped in earlier to tell me the 4 horses we harnessed up today are all fine; no scratches, scrapes or sore spots. One mare is already snoozing & the gelding is lying down; something he does only rarely. Once the teams are harnessed up tomorrow, Drew plans to shoo those 2 away from the field. The horses can do the job without our 'horsie types' hovering & there's plenty of work they can do with the other animals. Mark himself mentioned some of the riding horses are now healthy enough to work with, so I've asked him to concentrate on that - make sure they're safe to ride & to give those interested & with time; lessons. I 'm fine walking around on a horse, but will have to start pushing myself to do more. Like it or not, one of these days I'll have to know how to move faster on a when mounted. Morgan & Alex also need to progress & the children need to be kept busy. If time permits, I'll have Mark give all of them at least 1 session on the ponies over the next 2 or so days.

    Sarah is ready to work at least 1 dog tomorrow. She's trying a system she's jury rigged, using the harness on a single dog combined with a choke chain & leash for "speed control". That will be important when the kids are using dog sleds. I'd hate to think of them careening madly down the lane & tipping over. Sarah tried ploughing & had no trouble controlling the horses, but found keeping the plough in the ground & pointing in the right diredction was hard. I'll vouch for that. Silly me; I'd imagined the horses did most of the physical work. No, they may pull the plough forward, but the farmer has to keep it in the ground & going straight. Sarah says she'll work at it daily & if necessary., lift weights! Jean found it manageable but admitted she's very glad we have enough adults to rotate ploughing. She too says it takes more upper body strength than she'd expected.

    Sam & Max both did well, as did Alex & Jake. The rest of us all need more upper body strength in order to keep the plough pointing straight & go more than a few furrows. Well, in time we'll have no choice but to develop the strength, will we? Tomorrow, I'll try to do at least 3 furrows consecutively & the next day, at least that. I expect we'll all feel a bit stiff in the neck, shoulders & upper arms tomorrow, but not to the point where we can't move. Still, Alex, Morgan & Sam brought in a lot of water this afternoon & we hauled it upstairs. The women can start heating it right on the woodstove in 'my' kitchen, fill the barrels from there & we should be able to put those who ploughed through showers, even it they're short ones.

    I'm not sure the women "get it" in terms of priorities. I had several of them carping at me about making sure the kids didn't track in dirt, mud or lay dirty, wet clothing down anywhere but where it belongs. True, the kids need to be more careful but honestly, this is not something we're going to have much time to worry agout. Frankly as long as I don't have to spit too many twigs out of my supper or scrape my skin to ribbons from sand in the sheets at night I suspect I won't worry about a bit of dirt during ploughing/planting time. Noreen's not the problem, it's our "city girls". Cindy, Louise & even Jean "worrying" about dirt.

    Alex seems to find this whole :"bread from the sweat of your brow" pnenomenum fascinating. I can hardly wait to see how fascinating he still finds it after he's hoed an acre or 2 under the hot sun! Bright boy, quite thoughtful for his age but as also goes with the age... overly romantic notions of pioneer life. I would have thought The Outbreak would have been enough to knock the romanticism out of anyone by now. Evidently not in Alex' case & I wonder about the other 2 teens?

    Keeping the kids out from underfoot was a major pain today. They were so wound up, they couldn't settled. I told them repeatedly: " we're talking ploughing, it's really very boring as a spectator sport". They had to see that before they believed it though & still had all that pent up nervous energy to deal with. I scrambled around today, dreaming up something for them to do tomorrow which would involve practicality & energy reduction. I think I've got it. I'm going to ask all of them to carefully write a welcome note to our neighbours, telling them who they are & adding a few details about themselves. I walso want them to walk around the farmyard for half an hour or so and THINK. What 3 pieces of very important advice would they give our neighbours about farming under these Outbreak conditions? I also want them to pick up any 3 loose items in the farmyard they find interesting or about which they have questions. We can do a small "show & tell" session after supper & we can either speculate about anything odd they find or, in the case of something associated with the farm, perhaps Drew or Noreen can explain.

    The neighbours... how very glad I am that they seem to be ordinary people like us, only interested in making a go of things. Earlier, Mark & I carried over to the mailbox a covered bucket of good farm milk & a quart jar of maple syrup. We also had another note for them. Drew included his best memories of what crops the owner planted & where he sited them. He explained about the winter wheat - what it is & what to do about it. (Leave it grow!) & also suggested that once they're comfortable with the idea that we're not ill or likely to be, that they all come over for a meal - a Sunday afternoon would be a good time as it would fit in with our day off. I'd love to see them close up, face to face & have someone new to chat with. The kids have discovered that 2 of our upstairs windows are in view of 3 of their upstairs windows. Drew suggested we send them a copy of Morse Code & explain the kids are learning it - perhaps we could use that as a telephone system? Points for Jared! We can certainly adapt basic Morse for some sort of signalling system & it may prove to be very handy.

    We had a note from them earlier that we didn't take time to collect until just after we finished ploughing. We now know a bit more about them. They've all experienced deaths among family & friends, a regrettably 'old' story now for all survivors & none were inclined to stay where they came from near Kewanee. I'm curious to know why, but they'll explain that as they see fit I suppose. I suspect they were simply looking to avoid trouble. The reason they headed this way is whimsical. Jack remembered spending a few summers nearby & thought this might be a good place to settle. He's right in my estimation, much of the state is either heavily built up or too flat. Here we enjoy some variation in the landscape; some hills, some wooded areas & small lakes & streams. To my mind that variation gives us an increased chance of doing well. The trees & hills break the sweep of the wind when it's dry or in the coldest part of the winter. It's also a hell of a lot more interesting to look at. We have more varieties of game & fish available than do other parts of the state, although they may benefit from more livestock having survived the winter. I know I'd love to find some hogs or a hog for this year & a sow with a litter for slaughter next year & for trade. Beef I love, chicken is great, but a mess of pork ribs would go down a treat.

    Apparently they feel pretty overwhelmed & I can certainly relate to that. They would undoubtably feel worse than we do for several reasons. The group is smaller & consists of 2 nuclear family groups who, according to the note, only knew each other casually through the childrens's schools. They're not nearly as familiar with this area as we are & although they've 'lucked in' by settling on to a piece of land that is fertile & well tended, they're not farmers. They have no livestock, no equipment they can use & they're hinting that their neighbours may be a bit "strange". They've also noteed that a SECOND group has settled nearby - they're not sure of the exact makeup of this group yet as they only arrived 2 days ago.

    They've got a rough idea of what sorts of things they must plant & how much of each particular crop they will need. They're concerned about potatoes, they have no seed potatoes at all & are going to have to hope they can find some squirreled away somewhere on an abandoned farm or some other location that may have been missed. They do have seed for more wheat, soya, more than they need there; root crops... yeah, their biggest problem seems to be potatoes. Funny, Drew was crabbing that he wished we had more soya... hmmm. Must talk to Drew. I see a potential trade here.

    I'm getting the impression the teenaged daughters are not as helpful as they could be. I see a lot of sitting on the porch, talking & if they're supposed to be minding the children, they're not doing a very good job of it. I've yet to see them with a stick of wood in their hands or hanging wash out to dry. The children seem quiet enough, but I've not seen any of them doing anything remotely resembling work. If what we've seen through the binoculars truly represents the state of affairs over there, that is going to have to change in a hurry. Survival post-Outbreak requires every bit of help available, every set of hands busy.

    Overall, I'm satisfied with this day in a way I haven't been for a time. After months of extreme fear & tension, I fel a measure of relief. I know I'm a bit of a contrrol freak. I like many things "just so"; I've driven Anne crazy over the years with what she calls my "insane, ENDLESS fussiness". I'm willing to split the difference with her. In some cases, that fussiness is simply me. In other ways, I think it's vital. With children you must be as consistent as you can to raise them with a sense of security. They may disagree with you - sometimes loudly, but they must know what the limits are & those limits cannot be seen to change on a whim. I've always treated my students that way. Most are shocked when they enter my junior & senior English classes. I am organized & run my classes as though they were a workplace. I am always prepared for my day's work & expect the same from my students. They are given course outlines on the first day & we go over them. If there's some point requiring clarification, that's the time to do it. ALL major tests & assignment dates are given right in the outline, with alternate dates to account for snow days or other inevitable delays. I space essays, opinion pieces, book reports & tests reasonably comsidering their other courses & the time available. They have their reading list right from the first day & are given the books immediately. I encourage slow readers to start immediately with assigned novels, plays & other assigned reading matter & they're told what sorts of notes they should take. I'm strict with due dates & DO deduct marks for work handed in late.

    Initially I get quite a few dropouts, but those that stick generally find I'm fair. I insist on a fairly high standard & am willing to help those who are having trouble reaching that level. I've had phone calls & letters, years later, from former students thanking me for that "hard assed" attitude. Once they started college, they found that IS the standard & that professors mark based on work produced, not intellect or potential Those who went right to work or some sort of apprenticeship training found the world of work is just as unyeilding & my preparations helped them.

    I was also pretty rigid at home in terms of keeping my home maintained, paying bills on time if & taking care of what needed doing as quickly as possible. I prepped for whatever might befall us with the same "fussiness". As the kids grew older, some of those preps changed. I enjoyed being able to give away diapers, formula & other baby & small child items to womens' shelters & other charities when we no longer required them. Did our preps cost us? Certainly. Some years, we held on to cars that were well past their best. We took short vacations, if at all, during the early years. Friends, some family; thought we were foolish. Events have proved I wasn't. Certainly I never expeccted this sort of horror, but I had other nightmare scenarios burned into my brain. I raised the kids to be as self sufficient as possible & to be as completely independant as they were comfortable being.

    When The Outbreak began, I had very mixed feelings. I was relieved we were as well prepared as we were to isolate ourselves for as long as might be necessary. I found myself angry that I hadn't been able to prepare completely, that I didn't have the sort of job where I could live & work on land which I convert to a very small family farm. I was disturbed that I hadn't a clue how to farm properly or do any of the many tasks which now fall on us. I guess I was angry that I couldn't be Superman & I was VERY upset that I had a sense of powerlessness. Okay granted; most events which occur in the world, the nation, even within my family are beyond my control. Yet I've always lived a reasonably predictable life. I'm noit saying I was 100% boringly safe. To attempt that is to exist, not to LIVE. But I assessed risks when undertaking anything major & when I took a gamble, I knew I was doing just that. Yet here, I had a situation thrust upon me that was so beyond my comprehension, so far past my ability to do anything about, I felt like a helpless infant. Now THAT, as a so-called mature adult, was not acceptable. I loathe sitautions where I can do little & I expect it bothered me more than I let myself believe. I wonder if it wasn't a fairly major factor in my heart attack?

    Coming to Drew's, giving up on trying to get through this in my own home where I've so carefully prepared was a very difficult decision. As well as this is turning out, I still have mixed feelings - relief thatg we have far more resources, yet I'm still resentful of the fact that I couldn't care for my extended family completely on my own. I know what MT would say. She'd snap: "Foolish pride son, foolish pride!" And, she'd be quite right. But as foolish as it is, my sense of who I am & how good a person I feel myself to be is very much tied up in how I look after Anne, the kids - as grown up as they are - & the grandkids. This Outbreak showed just how imperfectly prepared I was to do that. Perhaps I could have managed anyway, we'd have eaten, stayed warm & healthy but this arrangement is so much more sensible. I simply have to get used to it.

    Noting what little I/we do know about the neighbours almost gives me a smug sense of satisfaction. That's small of me, it really is. But in these uncertain times, I suppose we cling to anything that makes us feel better for even a few short moments. At the back of my mind is always our great loss; the death of Greg & the fear that others may fall ill or be injured & die. We cannot - ever - downplay these risks. And as Anne would no doubt tell me, staying up late after a busy day with a busier one to come increases dangers as you're too tired to think straight or react quickly to emergencies.

    So, for now, I'll end this entry & get to bed. It's already past midnight & six is going to come in a blink.
    More of my thoughts on flu/health matters and the latest news can be found at [url=]The Laboratory[/url].

  4. #164
    Join Date
    May 2001
    Kingston, Ontario, Canada

    afternoon, 19/04/03

    The second day of ploughing work is well underway, considerably more matter of factly than yesterday & I'm glad to see everyone looking calmer & less excited. Tom & Drew insisted we treat today less as a special day & more as routine. In practical terms that meant a more reasonable division of labor for all & more real work being done. All were ready to get to work by eight this morning; that will necessarily change but is better than yesterday when the plough didn't bite into the soil until well past nine. It's another mild day but with clouds beginning to appear, I suspect we have some rain coming. I hope it's only 'April showers' as opposed to a steady rain. It's still mild, already in the mid 50s & the first daffodils look ready to open. Noreen must have hundreds of them scattered across the back of the yard & it will be heavenly to see them opening up & adding color to the land. The crocuses have put on a fine show, as have the irises, but I'm ready for 'big' color. Tulips are up too & Noreen says she has some pretty early ones which will bloom with the later daffodils.

    Mark & Annette were pleased to report the draft horses appear to be in fine fettle this morning - no apparent sores or aches with any of them. They began by harnesing up the team used yesterday afternoon & there was little nonsense from the mare this morning. Perhaps she's simply not inclined to afternoon work. Drew & the rest of the men have been working hard already & I'll admit their furrows are beginning to resemble real ones now. They're finding it tough, physical work, even though the amount of work done so far is nothing compared to what's coming. Just as well we're beginning slowly, muscles among the human population here were stiff & sore this morning. I worry more about the horses; any real injury there will slow us down quite a bit.

    The ploughing has gone more quickly today. Drew had the first team work for roughly 2 hours & insisted everyone who was ploughing try & do 3 furrows, at least, in a row. That seems to be doing the trick as you can almost see people falling into a rhythm after a furrow & a bit. The horses seem to be finding that less distracting as well. Once the first team was working, Mark & Annette went back to their usual work with the horses & budding riders. The children have all so far today, had a turn on 1 of the ponies. Isabelle is back to normal levels of activity with her stitches now out & she's still fearless. Mark had to stop & yell at her about 10 minutes after he had her on a pony. He was trying to lead it around the corral slowly & it kept trying to break into a trot. He finally realized Izzy was kicking it on, trying to get it to go faster. She's not ready for that yet & after 2 warnings, he abruptly pulled her off & told her to disappear until she was ready to do what she was told. Miss Isabelle didn't much like that & came stomping in here - attitude a little too apparent. I handed her a rag & cleaning spray & told her to go upstairs & not come back until the bathroom was sparkling. She was too full of energy & wilfullness for her own good. She's still inclined to pout & sulk when not getting her own way & I had to rap my cane hard on the floor & startle her before she reluctantly went upstairs. Judging by the sniffs & gulps I heard, she wasn't convinced I knew just how badly she's being treated. Seems to me that child is due for a good slap or 2 to her behind. I checked with Anne & she said she's healed well enough that a fall from the pony might teach her a lesson & more importantly If she continues to push her luck, I may suggest to Mark he see to it that she does take a small fall. It might smarten her up!

    Jared on the other hand is trotting, but because he's ready to do so. Mark has the pony on a long lead when Jared is on & tells me the boy is at the point where he can trot around the corral several times before his muscles begin to tire. We'll make a horseman of him yet. Ashley & Carol are still at a walk, but Mark is letting them "steer", teaching them how the reins are meant to be used. The adults will have a turn this afternoon, that is, if they have enough muscles left! They should; ploughing takes upper body strength & riding is more about the leg & butt muscles. Morgan has been joking that his lower half may as well become as stiff as his upper half!

    Sarah is finding the dogs a lot of work right now. Being spring, they're full of beans & 2 of the females are in heat, making the dog runs a bit chaotic. Thank goodness she only has 2 males & she's keeping them separate from the bitches right now. She's speaking of perhaps trading some of the dogs if she gets a chance to later this spring. We have far more than we need & she suspects one of the dogs may have gotten to 1 of the females in heat. Lovely! That's all we need is fall puppies! I sincerely hope that won't prove to be the case. If it is & even if it isn't, Sarah is hoping to get rid of the older male. He's a nice old thing but she tells me he's the father of most of the current females & a little too aggressive for her liking or was when he was younger. Certainly the younger dogs, his pups are too single minded & I'm still edgy around them. That may work well for racing - the so-called aggression - but for for "domestic use" it's a trial.

    Jean is keeping the 2 calves she was concerned about in the barn for now, along with their mothers. She's not sure what's wrong with them but says they may simply not be inclined to thrive. It's true they look a bit small & aren't putting on weight the way the others are. Drew says this is not unusual. In any year; some calves always seem to do poorly & if they don't pick up in another few days, he'll destroy them. That's not a pleasant thought, but we really don't have time to nurse weak animals, unless we're short & we are definitely not short of cattle. Even after the storm we have far more than we can use. We still have 60 calves doing well & Drew wishes they were of a breed suitable for simply turning loose to make it on their own. Mind you, the weather would prevent that anyway. It would be cruel to expect domesticated livestock to survive & thrive in this climate. Illinois is known more for hogs than cattle though & we're hoping we can trade some of the cattle for a hog & perhaps a sow with a litter. In any case, Jean has been carefully watching the other calves & cows & so far the rest seem healthy enough.

    Morgan is busy with his eavestrough project. His shower system works admirably & we've all enjoyed several showers since he & Tom finished installing it. As much as I enjoy a good, hot bath, a shower makes you feel rinsed & CLEAN & is much faster. We keep teasing him that he "failed" in that he has yet to come up with an easy way to get water upstairs without involving a lot of carrying. It seems to take forever to carry enough water upstairs to fill those 2 barrels. His laundry apparatus works a treat too. The women are thrilled with how much less physical effort it takes to do the job. Morgan has now run eavestrough along the roof line of the barn & in 2 locations, has installed covered water barrels to collect the runoff. He & Tom cobbled together a screened cover to keep insects & debris out & Morgan, after several failures, managed to seal spigots into the bottoms of the rain barrels. The men had the barrels sitting right on the ground but that madeit too difficult to get any sizeable water container under the spigots. They removed the barrels, placed a good layer of gravel under where they will sit & raised them up onto wooden pallets - much more sensible. Morgan is now preparing to install the same system on the barns & simply needs to get more eavestroughing when & where he can.

    The herb garden is beginning to grow & Noreen is spending time today identifying the perennial herbs for Anne & Maxine. It's lovely to see some fresh green over & above the spring bulbs & it's a nice change from all the mud we have to live with. Sam & Max took a short walk to the edge of the woods yesterday & informed us that plants are beginning to sprout below the trees as well. There's a patch of purple & yellow violets that Sam reports is really pretty & birds are nesting everywhere. We're hearing more & more birds & earlier in the morning too. It's a real treat for the ears.

    Noreen & Max have reorganized the pantries - again - & put aside a number of items to send to the neighbours. Included is another jar of maple syrup, a gallon jar this time & some pickles. They're also sending over some frozen steaks as we're not sure if they have much meat. They have heavy work ahead as well & did mention they feel they'll have to be careful with food for a time. Noreen also said something about sending over some cookies & a couple of pies - a nice gesture indeed! Cindy & Louise have spent much of the day, when not preparing meals & tidying up, talking babies. Cindy is due in a little less than 3 months now & you can sure see that. Louise is putting on weight too & it's hilarious to see them waddling around in an exaggerated fashion. Oh they do that just for the sheer entertainment value; both are doing very well indeed.

    Anne is progressing well she tells me, in her home medical studies. She was reading something or other about minor surgery yesterday & when she'd stop to think, she often ended up staring at the kittens. Noreen started teasing her about that, saying that practicing emergency appendectomies on the cats was not on! Oh we laughed. She's also doing a lot of reading on the subject of herbal remedies & wishes she had more first hand knowledge on that subject. She'd actually love to get to town one of these weeks & have a chat with the people operating the medical clinic about remedies other than those coming in tablet or capsule form!

    Jake today, when not taking his turn ploughing, has been hammering away at something in the barn. I'm not sure what & he tells me it's a project he & Morgan are working on jointly that is for now, a secret. That has everyone guessing & we made the children give us their solemn word they'd not try & peek. Perhaps we should have extracted that promise from Tom. He's simply dying to know what that's about! Jake is also putting a great deal of thought into some sort of security system for our crops once they're in this fall. The problem is 2 fold right now. Drew has never had to worry about keeping large quantities of grains or crops on site at the farm & several of the outbuildings are going to need a fair bit of work. Old & rotting boards will need replacing, one section of the roof in his granary building doesn't look very weather proof & the building is a bit removed from the house.

    The root cellars are too small, so dealing with potatoes, carrots, etc. is going to be a challenge. I know an old trick for carrots & once I reminded her, Noreen remembered it too. It involves storing them in clean, very dry sand & it should work. We simply need to build the boxes & find sand somewhere. We may end up turning most of the basement here into a root cellar. Drew says much of the stuff in his cellars can be stored elsewhere this winter, probably the attics or some of the outbuildings. No wonder older farms have such a clutter of small barns & sheds! The men will have to act as a building crew later this summer, strengthening the outbuildings we have & perhapos building a few more structures. Goodness, my respect for our pioneer ancestors grows by the day. Life was HARD back then & it's no wonder women & many men died well before their time. Sheer overwork, I'd imagine.

    I should mention it's roughly an hour past lunch now & from the looks of things, the second acre is almost completely rough-ploughed. That is much faster than yesterday & Sarah's idea with a single dog harnessed to a wagon to help deal with stones is more or less working. The first dog she used had a difficult time NOT taking off with the wagon & Alex has been needed to keep the animal in check. Sarah's pretty frustrated. She said at lunch that the biggest problem with huskies is that they have far more energy than is required most of the time & that as much as she loves them as a reminder of her dad, they are quickly becoming a major pain in the neck. She's seriously considering, one way or another, of reducing the numbers to 8 or 10. She'd prefer to keep the quieter ones & would frankly prefer to have several of a quieter breed, perhaps a Shepherd or something else equally as intelligent. Be that as it may, we'll work with what we have for now & I personally thank God for the animals we have.

    Annette & Mark are takig a break from working with the horses. Annette has a nasty gash on her calf where 1 of the foals accidently clipped her. It looks worse than it is according to Anne & is more of a large open scrape than anything else. Thank goodness for jeans. The pair Annette was wearing are ruined but the important thing is that she didn't come to any real harm. It seems the foal simply startled & lashed out & Annette was in the way. If it teaches everyone more caution, so much the better. In any case, those 2 are presently helping the children figure out the distances for their maps. Tom assigned them all the task of drawing the farmyard as best they could, then measuring the distances between the house & 3 other buildings. It was cute to see them marching through the farmyard after lunch carefully counting their paces. David, Sammy & Timmy lost count once they passed 40 or so paces, but the older kids helped them remember their numbers & that seems to have gone well. They're also writing welcome notes for the neighbours - good writing practice.

    Oh it's started to rain just a bit - a real soft, April shower by the looks of it. It looks like Morgan's water collection system is about to get it's first workout. He mentioned he wanted the barrels to fill so he could basically drain them - just to make sure they're clean enough for us to use. Of course any water coming out of there will be screened & treated, but I suppose filling & draining the barrels at least once is not a bad idea. I expect too that once they finish this second acre, our "ploughboys" will quit for the day. They've done well & the horses have been wonderfully co-operatie, bless them!

    I should go & make sure the back entrance has towels before people start coming in. Tom's asked me to listen to the children read before supper & before I do that, I need to move around a bit. This rain is welcome, but is making my hips stiff. A bit of exercise is just what the doctor ordered...
    More of my thoughts on flu/health matters and the latest news can be found at [url=]The Laboratory[/url].

  5. #165
    Join Date
    May 2001
    Kingston, Ontario, Canada

    evening, 19/04/03

    Wow, I'm tired this evening & I'm not sure why, but I'm in a really rotten mood. I almost can't stand being around myself & I can hardly wait for this day to be over so I can get to bed. Hopefully, I'll wake up with a better outlook on life. I guess MT probably wrote down that I got a cut from 1 of the foals - on my right leg. That was so dumb. I was trying to show it how to lean over a bit while I picked up its hoof. I should have listened to Mark & gone more slowly. I slipped a bit, the foal jumped & we both kind of lost our balance. I ended up with its front hoof through my jeans & I'm lucky I wasn't any closer or he really would have nailed me. It sure stung when Gram cleaned it out for me but she said stables have a lot of germs, so I just gritted my teeth & tried not to yelp when she put the antiseptic. There's going to be a nasty bruise there tomorrow, I just hope I can walk okay & ride next week.

    I'm really doing well with the riding Mark says, but it doesn't feel like it. I keep thinking I'm going to fall off, especially when he has me trotting. It feels so strange to try & keep my legs down around the horse's barrel, (stomach). I keep squeezing tighter, but my heels come up & my legs end up halfway into the saddle. Then I really think I'm going to fall. Mark is threatening to put me on without a saddle, just a halter so he can tie a long lead on & have me sitting there arms folded trying to keep my balance. Yeah, right! He swears it's a tough way to learn but you REALLY learn that way. Uh, maybe later. Right now, I just want to learn what I really need to stay on & not look too stupid. When I think that I was hoping to be sailing over logs & fences & stuff later this summer! I think the only thing gonna be sailing over anything is me... over the horse's head when it stops & I don't!

    Gramps looks pretty cool on a horse. He's still moving pretty slowly & he's also complaining about a sore butt, but I think he's just kidding. He's more patient than I am, that's for sure & he asks good questions. Maybe because he's older, he's just more careful & it saves me looking dumb by asking some questions I'm sure would sound really stupid to Mark. The kids are doing well on horses too & Morgan is really starting to like it. Mark has been on all the riding horses now & says that save for the young gelding, they seem to be pretty reliable - for him anyway. The second mare, the quarter horse is really beautiful. She's all black except for the pettiest star on her forehead & I wish she were just mine. But no, I'll have to share her, just like we all have to share everything.

    That's 1 thing really bugging me lately, having to share everything. Not just stuff, but places & time. I never seem to get a minute to myself. If I'm not working with Mark & the horses, it's chores with someone else & it seems whenever I have a second, one of the kids needs or wants something. I was upstairs after Gram cleaned that cut for me & I took a minute & grabbed the binoculars & looked at the neighbours place. Those 2 girls, Chelsea & Farah- think I spelled that wrong,were just SITTING there, doing absolutely nothing & looking bored. Must be nice! Gramps told me they never seem to be doing anything & their little kids don't seem to do chores either. That's not fair. I don't know how they're managing 'cause there's always too much work here & never enough time for that or to do anything fun - not yet. Don't get me wrong, I love horses & riding, but I'd love to do something else for a few days - just for a change.

    Mark is starting to drive me nuts too & I wish I could talk to Mom about it. She's usually really good to talk to about that kind of stuff - guys & all, but lately it's like she's not even here. I asked her today about some new clothes I NEED; underwear you know? Female stuff I've outgrown & I had to ask her THREE TIMES before she heard me. Oh she's driving me crazy & I got so furious with her. I wanted to slap her & scream. She's not the only one still feeling bloody awful about Greg. Gawd, doesn't that make me sound nasty & selfish? I talked a little bit to MT about that & she told me to try & be patient; that people start feeling a bit better at different times. Hey, it's not like I'm expecting mom or anyone else to feel better about it for a long time. It's just that I get the feeling she's forgotten those of us still alive. I know she hasn't, I just would really love to talk to her about stuff right now.

    We've exchanged a few more notes with the neighbours today. I almost get the feeling they just hang out their windows, waiting to see that little red flag go up. Last night, we decided; sort of, to ask them over in a week or so, maybe next Sunday just to get to know them, to say hi & see some new faces. We'll havr them for Sunday dinner I think. Uncle Drew & Aunt Noreen sent them over some food & stuff & we got a note right away saying 'thank you' in HUGE Black letters. Uncle Drew also sent them a whole bunch of information about the farm they're living on - what places are best to plant what, some stuff about the weather here & other stuff he says they'll find handy. I hope so, but I think it's really weird that they've mentioned all this work they have to do, yet none of us have seen any of them doing very much. I can't figure that out.

    I guess I should say that it's after supper. Everybody is downstairs doing the family gathering thing but I told Dad if I had to go tonight, I'd scream. I really, really need some time to myself - just an houror 2 & he said deal - but I've got to tuck the kids in later. That will be soon as it's almost eight o'clock now. Hey, anything to get a bit of time to myself. Dad said he understood, as long as I didn't make a habit of asking for that too often. He said we should all, as often as possible, spend our evenings together for now but he also understands that I can't do family, family, family all the time. I'm glad he understands. Like I said, I feel crappy today & just need a break from kids & cats & cows & horses.

    I wonder if, tomorrow, after morning chores & Bible reading, Mom & Dad would mind if I snuck off to the woods or somthing for an hour or so? If they won't let me go by myself, maybe I can talk someone into going with me. But not Mark. I need a 'Mark break'. You know, I'm kind of hoping he'll decide he really likes one of the girls across the road. I wish he were more like Alex. He's really nice; really & if I was still back at school, I'd probably be telling all my friends how hot he is! Okay, he's really gorgeous but he's not really my type. At least he leaves me alone. He's really nice to me, helps out when I can't reach or lift something, but he's not in my face all the time. I'm not sure if Mark has the hots for me or is just happy to have someone else interested in horses.

    I'd prefer to walk alone for a bit, away from this bloody farmyard but if Mom & Dad say no, I'm not going to argue. The neighbours report 2 new groups, 1 of which they find a bit "funny". They weren't clear what they meant by funny, but I want to relax, not feel like I have to sneak from tree to tree. Maybe I can convince Mom to come with me. I think it would do her good to get out & away from the kitchen & the kids. If it's a nice afternoon & the sun is shining, more flowers may be blooming & we might see squirrels, rabbits, etc. Maybe we can talk; I'd sure love that, really. We've barely had a chance to talk like we used to before the start of The Outbreak & since Greg died, it's like she's avoided talking to anyone. Heck she doesn't even have to say much, just to know she's LISTENING would be nice.

    If she can't or won't, I'd love to walk with Morgan - he's really nice & he looks like he could use a break from all the carpentry & plumbing work he's been doing. I remember him saying that every once in a while he likes to get off on his own; he gets moody & prefers to be by himself when he gets like that. Maybe we can arrange to go out to the woods or maybe a bit farther & we can be alone together or together alone. I know what I MEAN, I'm just not sure I'm making sense when I write it down. We could walk together or within sight of each other but not feel we have to talk to each other or anything.

    I'm getting some time to listen to some of the radio news too between chores. It wasn't terribly interesting at first; just a ton of bad news, over & over but now we're starting to get a little more useful & interesting/ It's cool to think we have almost 1200 people listed with City Hall. Most have been here all along, either living here or had come to spend the holidays with family or friends. Some are new. but not as many as I thought, unless you count the ones who were visiting when this all started. I feel really sorry for the ones who were visiting & who now are alone in the sense that the people they were visiting are dead. Man, that would be scary. Not only are they alone or with complete stragers, but a lot don't know thius area at all or aren't used to the weather here. Some left most of their family in other cities. Like, for example, someone's grandmother may have come here for the holidays because it was their "turn" to have grandma for Christmas. But maybe most of grandmother's family is back in or near the town Grandma comes from. She probably hasn't heard anything about how they're doing since early in The Outbreak. Phone services in a lot of areas was lost really early as people overwhelmed the phone companies trying to get news of their families or friends. I remember hearing that a lot of people never did find out what was happening back home. Sometimes they could find out what was happening in their town or general area through the news, but as to their own families No way, it just wasn't possible for most.

    Luckily most of those from a distance away who've lost everyone here have been able to find groups more than willing to welcome them. It wasn't all old people visiting here, in many cases it was like our family, coming here to visit grandparents or other relatives. The mayor thanked all those families here who have accepted the addition of older people finding themselves on their own. He reminded listeners that many of the elderly may not be able to work as hard physically as someone younger, but they may have valuable skills or knowledge to share which will help their 'host families' get through this crisis. He gave a few examples. One older gentleman can barely walk, but has extensive memories of canning & preserving food. The family who have taken him in has food to spare right now & are just lacking the knowledge to preserve what they grow this year. They're quite happy to exchange food for his skills & assistance in minding his 3 year old. Another lady is a retired practical nurse & has accepted a home with a family who has a daughter who is slightly handicapped. The daughter doesn't neeed a high level of care, but does need to be supervised pretty constantly.

    It seems the Mayor & the few people he has working with him are working really hard to get groups of people together. I think that's excellent - using City hall as a sort of middle man. It's easier for people to sort of sign up, say who they are & what they can do & put any limitations on who they live with or where, as they wish. Some people will probably prefer to stay alone, but that's okay too. I just like the whole group thing. Groups can work better together & groups can traded between each other more easily, I'd imagine. I'm not sure though, I'll have to ask Grampa about that.

    I bet, if the Mayor & his people find seeds & stuff, they can pass them our more fairly to people. Like, why waste bags & bags of seed on people who wouldn't know what to do with it? It makes more sense to pass it out to people who know what to do with it; farmers, others who've done a lot of gardening. Same thing with animals. I thought I knew something about horses, if only in theory. But it's not that easy in many ways. A lot of it is straight forward, like the books say but other things are way different. And like people, a lot depends on the individual horse. It's kind of like baby sitting. Some kids react exactly like the baby sitting course would have you think. Others seem to make thier own rules.

    I hope the Mayor, Gramps & Dad are right, Uncle Drew tto. They all think not too many people will make their way to this area because it's not as near to some of the cities as are other areas easier to reach by road. Even a road with some potholes & a few washouts are easier to travel than these smaller highways leading to this area. I want to think they're right. I'd hate to see too many people come here too fast. It's like we have to learn to walk all over again, starting with baby steps & I don't want to have to start pushing people down before I'm steady on my feet, you know.

    Anyway, maybe I should go downstairs for a while. It sounds like they're going to sing or somethin fun & I wouldn't mind that for a little bit. I'll ask Mom & Dad about that walk too...
    More of my thoughts on flu/health matters and the latest news can be found at [url=]The Laboratory[/url].

  6. #166
    Join Date
    May 2001
    Kingston, Ontario, Canada

    afternoon, 20/02/03

    Sunday evening, after a welcome day of rest & a soft rain that continued overnight & didn't end until mid-morning. Drew thinks we're going to have sun for the next several days which for us means work again. The last of the snow is finally gone & has been replaced by a good deal of mud the beggining of signs of greenery. The return of the sun in the afternoon led to a positive explosion of daffodil blooms out back, a truly welcome sight. Almost hourly, more bulbs come through the ground, later daffodils, tulips & we're seeing a lot of swelling buds on shrubs both on the property & at the edge of the woods. It's encouraging after a hard & stormy winter.

    It wasn't long ago we were all complaining about cabin fever, ruefully noting that enforced togetherness was making it far too easy to note everyone's faults & annoying habits. We all prayed for the time we could get out more, carve out small intervals of time for ourselves & enjoy the new activities. That's very much the case, yet I notice at the end of the day, we still feel the need to gather together, to discuss our day, plan for the next one & simply enjoy each other's company. We know as spring progresses & turns to summer we'll have less & less time to gather all at once & perhaps that's 1 of the reasons that in spite of prolonged cabin fever, we still seek each other out. Too, we still have much to learn about each other - even among my family.

    We didn't set any alarms this morning & while the children were up early, as were Cindy & Louise, the rest of us slept until seven or later. Funny how an extra hour's sleep can appear to make all the difference or perhaps it's the knowledge that much of the day is dedicated to individual pursuits, hobbies, interests & study one wants to do. Kids are kids & I always used to worry when they slept in - it usually meant they were sick. With 7 young ones, sleeping in 2 rooms even if one of them were inclined by nature to sleep a bit longer, they wouldn't stand a chance. I was impressed with how quiet they were though. Louise tells me they tip toed around, ate some cereal & waited for the others to get up before making too much noise. Jared & Ashley sat & read; they're both reading a short chapter book & Cindy said that other than asking each other what certain words were, they remained quiet. Isabelle spent some time in front of the mirror staring at her cut; the stitches are out now & I think she's hoping she'll be left with some kind of impressive scar. The 3 younger ones, David, Sammy & Timmy headed to the chicken coop, fed & watered the birds & collected eggs - 15 this morning. They left the 3 nests where hens are setting alone & I must remember to ask Jean when we can expect to see chicks. That's coming soon I think & we may 'start' some more. We're all nervous having only 2 dozen laying hens left. Thank goodness we still have plenty of poultry in the freezers. Carol asked for & obtained permission to walk to the horse barn to LOOK at the foals. She's sensible enough & if told not to do something - in this case try to enter any of the stalls - she listens.

    We didn't see Mark, Alex or Annette until almost 9 o'clock. Alex told us that not 6 months ago, he would have found that getting up at nine on a Sunday was getting up too early for a weekend. Now he says, it feels sinfully lazy. Annette's leg is a riot of color, mainly prurple, blues & black. Her cut seems to be clean but Anne cleaned it out again, just to be sure. Annette says it's sore, but nothing she can't live with. She & Mark didn't spend much time with the horses today. Annette insisted she needed the day off from equine duty & Mark allowed that the horses need a holiday as well. After making sure they were watered & fed & showed no apparent ill effects from 2 days of work, they turned them back out into the spring showers, made sure the harness was clean & ready to go tomorrow, then figuratively shut the door on horses for the day.

    Yesterday evening, Annette asked permission to walk up to woods, inviting Maxine to join her. Max didn't seem inclined to do so, but we all encouraged her to go & Sam finally insisted she take a few hours off & at least walk to the woods with Annette. I think Annette wanted to talk 'female stuff' with her & I'm not sure how much of that happened, but at least they went out on their own. It's a start. Annette looked thoughtful upon her return & Maxine looked as though the fresh air had done her some good. Sam, Mark & Morgan took the youngesters on an 'expedition', walking up to the fence line of the last of the linked pastures. They had no particular errand or job in mind, just walking, running & getting some fresh air. When they returned, Sam told me there's lots of indications that the deer population has done fine. He was able to point out quite a few tracks to the children including those of a number of fawns & he could see where the does had been trying to browse on the sprouts of grass coming up. He also said they could hear ducks & geese from the swamp which wasn't too far away.

    Drew, Jake & Jean were able to vouch for that. They chose to walk to the swamp today, bringing a packed lunch with them. They came back muddy & with wet feet, but looking happy & relaxed after their excursion. Drew was happy with the water levels. He told us the beavers have been busy raising the height of the dam & quite a bit of water is being held in. Naturally the ducks, geese & even a few loons flew off when they arrived, but Drew was happy with their numbers. With luck he says, we should have good hunting in the fall. I'm not keen on duck finding it far too greasy, but it would be a nice change from the usual meat. I asked Drew about the source of water in his swamp. He tells me he has 3 small streams running in behind the dam. 2 are seasonal & usually dry up by the end of June. In a good year, the third one runs year run even if it does slow to a trickle in mid-summer. Once past the dam, the water continues in another stream through a pasture Drew rarely uses. Most years he says, he makes sure it's seeded in good timothy hay & he can leave it sit & harvest 3, sometimes 4 cuttings of hay a year. The stream passes through the woods & on the east side of the farmyard, then about 30 yards before the road, disappears underground, through a sewer pipe. On the other side of the road, it re-emerges as a stream again, passing through a small draw on the new neighbour's property. As we'd expect for early spring, the stream is running full & then some. We're hoping that the meltwater filling the initial streams, which comes along various small creeks & streams mainly coming from north of here continues to flow for a time.

    The 'whale pod' - Cindy & Louise put a roast pork in the oven, then took themselves off to the woods for an hour or 2. They came home with an armful of early, wild flowers assuring us that they only took a few frrom each location. Luckily for them, they only took common ones, violets, trout lilies & such. Pregnant or not, Noreen would have had their heads on a platter had they tried to come home with rarities! MT took a walk earlier with me along to help her over any really mud spots. She did very well, walking about 300 yards down the road in the direction leading to town & stopping a while before walking back. She didn't stop because she needed to but rather because there was a nice spot to half lean, half sit against a fence & a pretty view to enjoy. Looking down the road, there's a small rise topped with maples, oaks & beech trees that's quite a sight in fall. Even now, when you see it, you know that once you top the rise, you only have a mile to go to town - if yoiu're taking the road. Facing in that direction & looking slightly left, towards the southwest, there's a slight drop in elevation towards the Spoon River. That gives a nice view, especially as crops start coming on. Looking east, there's a gradual rise in the land again & most of it is pasture, soy & corn fields - classic Illinois farm country! I never tire of the sight. At some point there was a small home right off the road & while nothing is left of it but blackened foundation timbers, the garden lives on. There are 2 small patches of daffodils & the very earliest sighs of peony, lily of the valley & summer perennials. There are 2 large lilac bushes there, both white when they bloom & even without leaves, the former yard offer a fine sight.

    We eventually crossed the ditch via an old pallet that was conveniently lying there & MT had fun looking through the garden. She was absolutely delighted to see so many 'old fashioned' plants in one place. Besides the daffodils, crocuses, lily of the valley & first peony buds, we think we've found some rose bushes that survived the winter - why not? They've survived so far with no human help. There also look to be tiger lilies, yarrow, alyssum which has seeded itself & poppies - both California poppies & stadard red ones. I bet if we were to check once a week or so, we'd find more coming up. MT says there's an old herb garden too. She wants Noreen & Anne to come down & have a look.

    As well as look for plants, we simply chatted, not about anything important, just casual chat about how blue the sky was, whether or not that was a haze of incipient green we saw on shrubs in the distance, how sticky the mud was in parts... not a thing about work, duty, death, disease or even dessert! Wonderfully, totally mindless chat & didn't that feel GOOD! We spend so much time speaking of VERY SERIOUS MATTERS that it's a relief to simply yammer on & not have to do any real thinking or projecting. The walk back was just as pleasant. Most of it we accomplished in perfect silence & MT swears she spotted a doe just lurking behind the next fence over. She needed a rest when she got back, but the walk really perked her up. It didn't hurt me either. A gentle walk was perfect for loosening tightened muscles & letting brain cells settle for a comfortable nap.

    We had a good view of the Merideth's & Runnings' farm; I didn't realize that walking up the road for just 100 yards or so gave such a good view. The men were out back, chopping wood from the look of things & I could see the women on the side porch, struggling with a tub of laundry, I think. The kids were playing tag in the yard & I saw no sign of the older girls. The last note we received from them thankfully accepted the invitation to dinner for next Sunday & Jack mentioned that they'd come over with an inventory or what they had, concentrating on what items they were short on & what they had to spare for trading purposes. I'm looking forward to seeing them up close & the women are already twittering about the meals, what to make, how much, what's for dessert...

    Anne took a nice long, hot bath, complete with a glass of red wine & a trashy novel as she likes to call them. For her the best part of it was the silence, the absence of the littles yelling for adult help or advice. She wants to get an early night tonight & I concur; she's been spending a lot of time in the evening studying up on medicinal herbs & other matters medical. Noreen & Sarah went up to the attic & dragged down some bolts of cloth & pieces of a quilt Noreen says have been up there forever. It's far from complete, but Sarah wants to have a try at it. The squares she showed me are marvellous & painstakingly worked - a real labor of love. Each one is different & represents a scene from the farm here. There's the house, both in winter & summer, harvest, planting, all manner of things. Sarah already has ideas for some squares she wants to do. This will not be a classic quilt in that there will be no identified pattern; simply a collection of squares representing life here, both in the past & today. I think I'll ask everyone to try their hand at designing a square. If their drawing skills aren't up to the job, they can describe what they'd like to see. If Sarah chooses a plain cloth, maybe black or white or something & perhaps a border of a different color, it could end up being a real work of art. It will give her something to work on next winter. The 2 women had a grand time looking at the squares as well as the rest of the carefully wrapped fabric scraps. Sarah says she has plenty available just in that stuff to complete the work she'd like to do.

    We have a quiet evening planned for ourselves. Drew wants to go over the plans for the week including tomorrow as the first big day now that we've had a couple of days to get an idea what the work is going to be like. Tomorrow, we'll replough the first 2 acres & plant potatoes as well as other things. Drew's changed his mind again on what he's planting where, but he promised me an entry & I'll hold him to that. He can explain himself what he's planning on & what his thinking is. He's eager to have Andy & Joe back & we will have them home again tomorrow nigjht, God & weather willing. Sarah, Alex & Morgan are taking 2 trios of dogs & making the run into town using 2 wagons instead of sleds. They'll go early enough to run some "errands", drop off supplies for City Hall then at the end oif the day, will return with out guys. Cindy & Louise are trying to combine their favorite meals which isn't proving too hard. For Joe, thick steaks & for Andy, scalloped potatoes. Along with that comes 2 kinds of gravy, onion & burned butter gravy, fresh bread, carrots with a dab of butter & cinnamon sugar, creamed celery, (yech!) & corn niblets. For dessert we'll have a choice between a chocolate roll, date squares & apple pie.

    Now we're assuming they're ready & able to come home. I don't see why they'd not be able - the Mayor has no power to force them to stay & no means to enforce any such power in any case. It's the willingness we wonder about, not having heard anything frrom them directly. In my view, they've done their share & then some & the Mayor stated he has more volunteers willing to help with disposing of the bodies. Andy & Joe must realise we're at the point where the work is really going to come at us fast. Ideally, they'll be prepared to come home at the end of the day. If not today, if they'd prefer or feel they must stay to finish a few more days of work, they should be able to walk home. The snow is gone & if they're careful, they should be fine along the roads. If that's too risky, there' not that much mud; they can find a way through.

    I've already prepared the childrens' school work for this week. It always amazes me; we 'only' have 7 children & they're not far apart in age, yet because they're young, the span of abilities & intellectual maturity is amazing. Carol should by age, be the furthest ahead in basic skills yet she's a bit behind in math & reading. Jared is far & away my best reader & Isabelle is very good at math. David is also excellent at basic arithmetic & Timmy is astounding for his age. He's ahead of Sammy & even Isabelle in terms of adding & subtracting. Now I'm not comparing their basic intellects at this point - ridiculous at this age & under the circumstances. I simply marvel at the wide range of ability you find in only a few children. I think they'll end up benefitting greatly by being surrounded with adults of different ages & differing abilities.

    Before the Industrial Age, when life seemed to operate at a slower pace, children spent much more time with their parents or withing ear shot or eye sight & most parents worked at home. It wasn't until industrial jobs, then schools began to separate families that children became so heavily influenced so young by persons or institutions outside the home. Previously, it was the family, followed by near neighbours. Today until recently, it's been the schools & the media & even as a teacher, I'd be the first to say much of that was negative. I understand schools wishing to impart a body of knowledge to students, but I question their choices of knowledge. They concern themselves far too much with issues not properly the responsability of schools but belonging to parents. In terms of educating the kids, I prefer this - we know exactly where they are, what they're doing & what they're learning. More importantly, we know HOW they're learning it. Schools today do not only NOT encourage independent thinking skills but seem to actively discourage them.

    I'm not making that mistake with these ones in my charge right now. Certainly some basics must just be LEARNED. No matter how much you choose to think about it, one plus one will always equal two & certain combinations of letters will always make certain sounds in English. There are still any number of things small children can & should be encouraged to think about independantly. I asked them to come up with three things our new neighbours or any new person here should 'know' about living & farming here. I'll enter those as a separate page or 2; the answers I got are deserving of that. They're a wonderful combination of humor, practicality & some surprising insight. I'm tempteed to ask the 3 teens to write me 2-3 page essays on the same subject. Those would make valuable journal entries as well as provide good work for the three of them.

    We spent some time after lunch going through our food supplies. With spring here, we're feeling an urgent need to use up the frozen items, mainly meat & some fruit & vegetables. There's more than we can possibly use in the time period remaining, even if we were to eat non-stop. This evening, I'll be going 'next door'; to the neighbour's mailbox that is & explaining this to them. We want to give them enough frozen meat & others goodies to do them a week or so. It should stay cold enough long enough to stay edible if they wrap the food in burlap or newspaper. I've been told there's a cold cellar down there. Sarah & the men will also bring quite a load of meat into City Hall tomorrow. We do have 1 freezer still frozen. Earlier in the winter, we'd surrounded it by nailed together boards about 18 inches away frrom the freezer walls. The gap was filled with snow which had water poured over it. We surrounded that with old hay bales that Drew said were too musty to feed to the cattle. That should give us another few weeks of frozen meat & vegetables.

    After that, we'll have to begin killing some of the animals on a regular basis. It';s important now that we set up a system of trade with at least our near neighbours in order not to waste meat & to perhaps obtain items we need or would simply like to have. I hope the folks next door have something genuinely useful we could tradee for - if not immediately than a skill or product we could collecct on later. Boy, I hate the bitter cold of Illinois winters, but being able to freeze stuff helps. Maxine has figured out how to salt meat as well as can it. In terms of the salted product, it sems like salt cod, meat can be soaked overnight in several rinses of water to remove the excess salt. I hope so, I like my salt but Anne limits the amount she allows me since my heart attack.

    We need to organise another major supply run to town or a series of small excursions. We now need to concentrate on canning supplies. There were lots available when our group made the trips from my house to various stores & supply stores & I hope they're still there. We are going to need more jars, more lids & gaskets than I care to think about & right now, Maxine is experimenting with a few brbands & thicknesses of freezer bags. If they will tolerate the boiling process of canning, they'd make a fine alternative. The question is can the zipper seal remain sealed?

    Well, I smell supper which means it will be ready soon. I'd best help the settle the children down & make sure they're clean enough to sit at the table. It's an early meal for us, but we want to hold out gathering then retreat to our own thoughts, smaller groups or quiet pursuits. We're all planning an early night.
    More of my thoughts on flu/health matters and the latest news can be found at [url=]The Laboratory[/url].

  7. #167
    Join Date
    May 2001
    Kingston, Ontario, Canada

    afternoon, 20/04/03

    Well now, it's been a mighty long time since I added anything to Tom's Journal. I've avoided the job since Annette & I were stuck in that barn, sweating out the incubation period for smallpox. But It really is time I took a turn & Tom asked me to write about something I'm probably the best qualified here to do - save for Noreen. He wants me to write down what kind of work we will be doing in the next month or so, in terms of ploughing, planting & such. I told them the other night about my fuel stash. Hell's bells did I ever laugh at the looks on their faces. Talk about a jaw dropping reaction. Many looked relieved, most stunned & a few, mainly the women were pretty mad me for holding out until I explained why. I told them I didn't want them worrying about something else & that until we got closer to the time we could use it, that's all we'd do, fret & worry. I also didn't want too many people walking towards my buried tanks - in snow any kind of a path generally leads somewhere & I didn't want a stranger wondering where these paths led.

    Relief was probably the biggest reaction & I can understand that. The thought of trying to plough the old fashioned way all the land we really need to plough & plant to be sure we have enough scared the crap out of me. I mean, I can do without a lot of sleep but we all need SOME sleep. I felt as though talking about it would jinx me though & that somehow by talking about it, I would cause it to disappear. Nuts or what? But it's all there & the tractor & plough attachment are in great shape - should be, they're only 2 years old & I fixed any minor problems they had & greased them up the yin yang before winter & The Outbreak hit. I just need to wipe off the grease & dust, do a bit of a tune up, oil change, battery, that type of stuff & fill up the tractor. Hey when I bought it, they even threw in an extra wheel for the tractor, a back wheel, so that shouldn't be a problem. I'm hoping to get to the ploughing by the weekend; it's time to get off our butts & WORK. But, if they think playing with these few acres has been work, they're in for a shock. Noreen & I have been having a hard time keeping our mouths shut, but we didn't want to scare anyone too badly. Sarah knows differently, I can tell, but she's kept her trap shut too. I've noticed she gets to bed as early as she can most nights, so she knows what's coming.

    Tomorrow, I want my plough team saddled & ready by seven & have told the kids that. By seven fifteen the first proper furrow will be started & I want those 2 acres finished by tonight. Not only do I wanted them ploughed, but I want the first acre planted in potatoes & much of the second acre planted in cool weather crops. I've got 'the plan' all drawn up, multiple copies & I'll show everyone at the meeting after supper. Potatoes are easy enough. The entire acre is spuds & they're distinctive enough looking plants. The second acre I want for kitchen vegetables for the summer. Noreen & I simply took what we've been used to planting for our own needs & mulitplied the quantities & amount of land needed. We'll plant more later, but we need to start if we're going to see early fresh stuff.

    They'll be planting, in alphabetical order; beets, broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, carrots, corn, kale, leeks, onions, parsnips, peas & turnips. These all do fine under these temperature conditions & many we can several times during the summer. Now I doubt everything will get planted tomorrow. We're in for a back breaking day as it is. Ploughing will be hard enough & each man will take an hour behind the horses. Once we've got a few furrows started - which I'll start while the others are doing morning chores, the kids can start planting potato sets, hoeing them over & marking them with stakes. The older kids & the adults will have to do some hoeing; the ground is still on the wet side & it's murderous on the shoulders & arm muscles.

    Once that looks to be well underway, I want the peas in. They all seem to mature pretty close together, so if I get some in now, then a load more in about 2 weeks, it will give the women a chance to process some before the main crop hits the canning pots. Onions, carrots & other important root crops will go in today & tomorrow & while the teens & kids, along with the women are coping with that, the men & I will finish ploughing the other 3 acres of kitchen garden. I've half made up my mind to take an acre or 2 of the corn field leading up to the edge of the woods for carrots & other root crops, those things which are good winter keepers. I'd just as soon have vegetables on 2 separate pieces of land & just as soon have more than we think we need. You never know what the weather is going to do or pests. By the end of the week, that's simply got to be done.

    Next week, I have to start preparing the land for the main crops, both in terms of animal feed & human eating. I usually average ploughing 30 acres a day, God willing & luck being with me & if everyone else busts their butts, they can almost keep up with the planting. Noreen will take tractor shifts too, so I can give a hand with the planting of various seeds, show what needs covering and not & be available to answer other questions likely to come up. I've spent a hell of a lot of time planning, or trying to plan, for next year in terms of what we need. The biggest issue & 1 that drove much of the subsequent planting decisions was... how many cattle do I plan to winter over. I can get about 200 pounds of meat per young steer slaughtered. With 24 people here, that amount of meat will last about 2 weeks so obviously much of it has to be salted or dried... I'll have to check with Noreen & Max on what they feel is best in terms of time required, firewood & such. That's why I'd like to have a sow or 2. We can kill a hog or 3 in the fall & do it down then if we're inclined to fresh pork during the warmer seasons, we can kill a piglet. That way, more of it can be eaten fresh. Chickens are easy enough, 2 or 3 per meal but what I wouldn't give for some turkeys. I'm going to send a note with Sarah tomorrow for the mayor. This is generally hog country & not many nearby do or did cattle. There were some who had turkeys & boy, I'd be willing to trade a cow or 2 just for a starter flock of turkeys. We've had them before & I'm planting lots of poultry feed grains in case I get my hands on some. Back to hogs - they'd also be a great way to get rid of kitchen waste of the edible sort.

    So it comes down to how many cattle to plan to keep over the winter. I'd like to have 20 or so cows bred; say 25 as insurance. I'll also keep 2-3 steers for insurance. I've got a calf I'm keeping as a potential bull but the rest of the cattle will go, one way or another. We'll slaughter & process roughly a down for our own needs & the rest I'll traded either as cattle on the hoof or meat. That number of cattle will be much easier to look after this coming winter. It also means I need to plant a hell of a lot less in cattle corn & other grains. And... we've added the horses too. It's vital that we keep the plough horses, but I'm going to have to make the kids understand we can't keep all the riding horses. Perhaps 2 of them & 1 of the foals can stay, but the rest we'll have to use as trade items. I don't mean to sound harsh or cruel, but we are responsible for the well being of every animal we keep. That takes time & a lot of effort & we aren't in a position to keep pets. A few horses to ride & pull a light sled are a real time & work saver but more than that & the amount of time you put in to maintain the animals negates a lot of their work value.

    Kids, city kids & farms. Our little bunch is in for a set of shocks when it comes time to "make meat". Yes, the calves are cute & no doubt they'll find the chicks adorable. Piglets can be a riot, but... these are food animals. I have never EVER been cruel when slaughtering my livestock but they are here for a purpose & that purpose does not include entertainment value for children. Oh they'll be fine; may shed a few tears the first few times they know that a favorite animal has been made ready for eventual use on the dinner table & they may even refuse to eat meat for a few meals, but I'm hoping the other adults will be sensible about this whole issue, should it arise. Meat doesn't naturally come pre-packaged with a handy liner to absorb "nasty looking" juices. It comes on the hoof or wing & clucks, moos, oinks or sometimes makes no sound at all. It's not called Bambi or Daisy & it doesn't have kindly thoughts about people.

    I'll admit the kids have been excellent about the realities of farm living. They're young enough to still find it fascinating, at least initially & once that fascination wears off, they're fine in terms of handling the work. There's nothing remotely pleasant about shovelling out chicken coops. There's not a whole lot worse on a farm that smells worse. They've all stepped in their share of manure & then some but all have the right attitude. Thank God we didn't end up with any overly fastidious kids! I like how Isabelle out it. She'd stepped in some dirty bedding, full of cow crap & as she was outside, wasn't in a big hurry to scrape it off. David asked how it was she didn't mind; wasn't it too much a "cowy smell" for her & stinky? She thought for a minute & slowly answered: "No, not real it's a CLEAN stink". Alex & I had to run around another outbuilding before we bust a gut laughing. Oh the things kids come out with.

    They've been about as much help as work so far, a good batting average for kids in their age range. Within the next week or 2, they'll be producing more work than they consume, so to speak. As the season wears on & they get used to it, they'll be doing even more work. I'm not going to be the one to tell them that though; even more me who's used to it, thinking about the amount of work that needs doing between now & next November.

    The groups of adults Noreen & I find ourselves with has turned out to be a fine group indeed. Oh they have their faults but don't we all., The important thing is they're all hard workers & willing to try new jobs. Sure in a few cases, they have fears difficult to overcome. Joe for example is terrified of horses, but luckily we don't need every adult able to deal with the horses. He works hard with the cattle when that's necessary & I know he WOULD do what needed doing for the horses if he had to. Cindy is inclined to see the negative side of everything. Morgan wasn't kidding when he told us he was inclined to fits of sulks. At least he does warn us as he promised he would. I've learned though - he's not naturally a morning person. Mark can be a little pompous when it comes to the horses & Alex is a little too impressed with his own intellect. Tom was right about himself - he IS a control freak. But he's keeping a lid on it. I've got to give him a major area of responsibility, other than educating the kids; to keep him from going nuts. Damn, I had something in mind for him a while back but do you think I can remember it? Age creeping up on me, I guess.

    I have to be honest, Tom & the others are looking forward to meeting the new neighbours & developing a closer relationship. I'm not thrilled about it. From what I've seen or actually NOT seen, they've been talking a good game in their notes to us, but I'm seeing next to no work get started. I know they have seed over there, tools & most of what they'd need. I sent over a bunch of written stuff - advice on what to start planting now & what can wait some time. Even that hasn't resulted in any visible preparation on their part. With what I gave them, they should at least be going over their seed stocks, making sure their tools are ready & that they're ready in a personal sense. Maybe I'm not being fair - maybe they're doing a lot of this when we're not looking, but that doesn't make sense. We'll get a better idea next Sunday I suppose when we meet them

    It's been good to hear on local news that much of the good farm land close to town will be worked this summer. If those occupying that land know what they're doing or are willing to learn & work hard, the region should do fine. Naturally we can't produce the sheer volume of crops we used to be able to, but we can certainly feed everyone here. If we can manage that & if we have enough people here locally with valuable skills, we should make out just fine. Having 2 doctors & 3 nurses in town operating a doctor's office is a real stroke of luck. We could use a dentist, a vet would be great or even another vet assistant in town would be invaluable. Boy, there are so many different skills we could use now or will need as the spring & summer progress. Many are nice to haves but others may save lives.

    The mayor has started broadcasting "Farming 101" lessons several times a day. He's had a few retired folks write for him those things people should be doing right now, even though it may seem too cold to do much on the land. It's surprising what you an plant now though that will do just fine. He's urging people to get started as quickly as they can if they want to make sure they have enough for next year. Good advice & I hope people listen. Drew is going to the mail box tonight to leave another note. I'll have him include that advice.

    It's getting on to suppertime now & I'm hungry. I want to eat a good supper, then update my farm notes before getting to bed myself.
    More of my thoughts on flu/health matters and the latest news can be found at [url=]The Laboratory[/url].

  8. #168
    Join Date
    May 2001
    Kingston, Ontario, Canada

    afternoon, 21/04/03

    This will not be a long entry today, as I'm very tired. My fatigue certainly can't compare to that of the men & most of the women & for that I can't help but be grateful. I think we all feel a combination of fatigue & perhaps a bit of mild depression tonight - or perhaps more accurately, reality shock has struck. At our abbreviated family gathering yesterday evening, Drew laid out his plans for today & the rest of the week & although we all knew busy times lay ahead, the details struck us all as daunting. As he insisted, all were ready to begin the day's real work by seven this morning. By that I mean all were up, dressed &the usual morning chores were done.

    It took a good 4 hours of work to plough the first acre & even that required both teams harnessed & working. I suppose the furrows could be straighter, but they're not badly done &potatoes need room more than they require straightness. Drew simply mentally divided the acre into 2 halves & started 1 team right at the edge of the field & the second roughly halfway across. Drew, Sam & Jean rotated working the first team while Tom, Jake & Mark worked the second team. There was no messing about today. Drew was almost stern with everyone, which isn’t a bad thing. I think he simply wanted to get the point across – not so subtly, that HE runs farming operations & he knows what he’s doing. If he says it’s time to hurry, than I’m forced to conclude that such is the case.

    Once the first 3 furrows were done in each half of the field, the children began planting potatoes. Luckily for all, this was easy ploughing. Potatoes only have to be planted a few inches deep & about 3 feet apart, so that made for a ‘soft start’. The kids have been shown roughly what a foot in distance is & that’s how far apart the sets were placed. Then, a second child would hoe over the spuds with about 3” of dirt & a third child marked the location with a stake. Once the potatoes begin to sprout, Drew says we’ll start hilling them up. Again, that will probably fall to the kids, them women & anyone unable to do harder work at the time. Not that hoeing is easy, but some remaining tasks will be much tougher. With teams consisting of 4 kids & the adults not ploughing constantly, there was plenty of supervision available. Mark spent a fair bit of time helping the children, as did Annette, once they finished working the horses. The focus of equine work now is accustoming the third team to working in harness. Mark thinks they’re ‘almost there’ & hopes to hitch them to something “real” by the end of the week. If they can pull a wagon in a calm fashion within a week or so, he'll then get them used to a plough & hopefully will have them ready to work the fields.

    While the men I listed & children worked that first acre, Louise, Cindy & Noreen put together a substantial, hot meal. Noreen says there’s a reason many farmers in the ‘old days’ ate a huge lunch – they needed the energy for the afternoon’s work & judging by the way everyone dug in, that was the case here. Roast pork was on the menu today & supper will consist of a pork stew with lots of bread, some pies with a lot of sweetness in them & will be served as soon as the day’s work is done. The women & I took care of meal preparations today as well as cleaning chores. There’s nothing onerous about that when everyone else is out working hard.

    In the afternoon, the teams ploughed up the other acre, following the routine they did in the morning. The kids finished, with help, planting potatoes in the first acre, then began planting the other vegetables shortly after. They managed to finish the first planting of peas & onions as well as some corn. The rest they’ll finish with adult help tomorrow as some of the planting to be done tomorrow will need a bit more supervision if not outright help. While they’re doing that, Drew wants the teams to do as much of a first ploughing of the remaining 3 acres of kitchen garden as possible. By the end of the day Friday, he’s hoping to have that done so he can start ploughing up the land for the main crops. If, by the end of Thursday those remaining 3 acres can be ploughed twice, then Friday, everyone can work on planting. As Drew ploughs tomorrow, he’ll be followed by people hauling out obvious weed roots, stones & anything else likely to prove to be a problem later in the summer. The same will apply all week & planting will be added to that.

    Already a few of the kids are complaining of blisters. A few decided gloves were an annoyance & removed them – guess who were the first with blisters? I know those who ploughed will be stiff tomorrow & I expect the horses will sleep well tonight. Noreen following a recipe Mark gave her will prepare a hot mash for the plough horses & Annette has already prepared their stalls with nice, clean bedding. They’ll sleep in tonight & all have been told, (assuming they have the energy to want to), to leave the horses be once they’re put to bed for the night. Annette & Jean will give them a final check at about eight o’clock, then they’ll be left in peace until morning stable duties.

    The boys will be finishing planting, staking & hoeing in plenty of time to see to the chickens. We have about 20 eggs now being set on by the hens & that number is added to daily. That means we’ll have chicks being born almost daily for a time, but we need to replace those we lost to the storm. We’re limiting our use of eggs right now & by the time these eggs are hatched, grown & ready to lay we’ll sure be longing for roast chicken, fried chicken – ANY type of chicken! We do have several left frozen but we’ll have to use them up quickly before the ice around our buckshee freezer melts.

    Sarah, Morgan & Alex set off for town this morning – I’m expecting them back anytime actually. They went in to pick up Andy & Joe & to drop off a number of food items to City Hall to help the mayor. They promised they’d be back for supper & should any delay they were made aware of come up, they’d plead for the radio station to state that. There’s been nothing other than mention of a donation of roasts & steaks from a local family group, (us!), so we’re expecting them soon. Cindy keeps staring out the window, hoping to see the dogs or hear them.

    Everyone is close to finishing for the day. It’s early, only four o’clock, but everyone looks droopy & the horses must be tired. Drew wants to follow the same routine tomorrow, then by the end of the week, no matter how tired any of us may be; we’ll be working until at least 5 o’clock. I’ve got to put this aside for now. The girls need help getting the last items ready for supper & no doubt the kids will need some help getting tidied up. I’d best get going & hopefully someone can take this up later this evening & fill in more details. I know this is less than Tom had in mind, but goodness, we can’t do everything all in one day & I too, need time to get used to the change in routine, the heavier workload!
    More of my thoughts on flu/health matters and the latest news can be found at [url=]The Laboratory[/url].

  9. #169
    Join Date
    May 2001
    Kingston, Ontario, Canada

    late evening, 21/04/03

    Sarah here again, reporting on our trip to town today as Tom has asked me to do. I'm sorry I promised to do it tonight; my hands are sore from gripping the wagon handles & traces. Morgan, Alex & I left early this morning; too early, but Morgan wisely noted that the plough men and women, might not take too kindly to us standing around watching them try to get the work done. So we left shortly before eight. We brought 2 wagons with us, wagons Morgan made from - well, I'm not sure. They're about 4 feet wide, 8 feet long & have slatted sides which can range from 1 to 3 feet high. Any higher & the wagons would be to prone to tipping. They're not easy to steer; it's more a case of steering the dogs & hoping the wagons follow without tipping, but Morgan says he'll eventually come up with something better. I'm sure he will, but this is working fine for now & I can control the speed by simply limiting the number of dogs we use. I only hitched three to each wagon today. With only three of us going, I didn't want to end up spending too much energy controlling rowdy dogs.

    Alex being up a bit early this morning & having energy to burn, had already jogged most of the way to town along the roads from here - and yes, he did get permission first & went armed. He left about an hour before dawn & with a clear night, had just enough light to see by. He was back within 90 minutes or so & must have really moved fast to make that good a time. But yes, he reported the roads were clear enough - a few areas looked to be close to washing out, but there were no insurmountable barriers.

    Using only three dogs per wagon meant I could keep the traces short & I also had choke chains & long leads on my lead dogs. Thank God for that as they weren't inclined to take their time. Next time though, I'll do the same for the wheel dogs as they kept nipping at the lead dogs' heels & that caused a bit of chaos until we were able to run some of the energy out of them.

    We followed the easy way to town, the one Drew described as his usual route & all told, it's only about 4 miles. Alex has been able to take some short cuts across fields that still allowed him a good view of the roads. Under different circumstances, it would have been a pleasant outing. Early as it was, it was mild with just the slightest breeze. Birds of course are everywhere now & loud with their song. Some of the smaller shrubs & undergrowth are showing a faint, fuzzy green & grass, weeds & some old crops are sprouting just enough to let you know spring is really here. What struck me & that took time, was the silence. Other than our own voices & the dogs, we heard very little. There were no traffic noises, no vehicles to be seen or heard & no people. We did see some farm animals; cattle mainly, some cows here & there, more than a few with calves running along side of them. I'm pretty sure I saw a few horses, but that was at a distance.

    We stopped just outside of town, maybe 500 yards from the downtown area. From this side, town starts pretty abruptly. You have miles of fields & pastures, then a small wood lot & suddenly, you're looking at buildings located in the former main town square. We stopped for a few reasons. Going from family to town these days isn't something taken lightly. It's not like deciding you need a couple of bags of flour, hopping into the pickup & being home half an hour later with your flour & whatever the latest town gossip is. This to me, was soooooo different & I needed time to pull myself together, put on my game face. I also was scared as anything.

    Doesn't that sound stupid? I'm not a kid anymore & I can certainly take care of myself. I think I've proven that by now. I can carry my own weight & help others. I've worked hard all my life, looked after my parents & done well with WalMart. Yet there I stood like some bashful teenybopper about to go on her first date. I was feeling SHY! I found myself wondering what I'd say if anyone walked up to me & said: "Hi there!" Nuts! Actually, turns out Morgan & Alex weren't feeling much different but I wish I'd known that then!

    We also wanted to get a good, close, careful look at what appeared to be happening. I was here just a few weeks ago, but things can change fast & this time I felt we had more time for some "sightseeing". It's clear things are not 'right' in our town. It looks like a set from a 'b' grade movie. The old town square is a park now; some grass & park benches set beneath some old & large trees. In the summer, the fountain in the center is pretty & the council does a good job with the flowerbeds. Right now it looks totally desolate. The fountain is still & covered in garbage & loose paper is littering the grass. The benches are gone - I suspect the wood was taken for firewood. Someone seems to have tried to cut the trees too. Lower branches are missing & we thought we saw marks from axes & saws on what's left of the trunks.

    Some buildings are burnt, others look to have collapsed. Some light standards & electric poles are leaning or fallen over & the streets are littered with cars; thankfully most are 'parked' to the side. Wires from traffic signals are lying about & broken glass, what seems to be clothing & other store front items are everywhere. There's been some attempt to straighten things up but I doubt that's a priority right now. If you look closely, there are signs that the town hasn't been completely abandoned. Some buildings have had broken windows boarded up & one even had fresh glass & tools had been left beneath the window, as if the worker had gone for a coffee break.

    Town Hall was a welcome sight, mostly because it was THERE. It brought tears to my eyes to see our flag flying proudly from the top of the flag pole. There was just enough breeze to lift it high & proud, all stripes & stars waving to all those prepared to see. Morgan had tears in his eyes & wasn't ashamed of them. The windows all looked intact & the front steps were swept clean. On the front door, fluttering slightly, we could just make out some tacked up papers through the binoculars Alex & Morgan had brought. We all felt more than a little nervous about making our way into the square; funny how quickly & easily you can get paranoid. There were no evident signs of danger though, no fresh digging which might indicate traps, no manned guard points - just... a lot of nothing.

    We weren't quite sure how to do this, head into town that is. We didn't want to put our guns away but how do you signal that you're armed but not dangerous? Hard to do, so I had Alex grab my jacket, (which happens to be off white) & wave that around, walking slowly down the street towards City Hall. Morgan & I followed behind, each with a firm grip on the lead dog as the two teams pulled the wagons the rest of the way. We all took turns calling out & walked VERY slowly, looking all aroud us every strep of the way. I think I would rather have walked into a nest of rattlers, my heart was pounding so. I expected to be shot any second - no basis in reason for that, but I wasn't feeling terribly reasonable either.

    We got all the way to the road right in front of the front steps of City Hall before we saw or heard anyone. Oh we were being watched; we all felt eyes boring through us, every single, long step of the way. We stood and waited in front of the steps for what seemed like forever before anyone spoke to us. From the third floor, a window opened & two people could be seen, just inside the window frame. One, the mayor it turns out, politely but firmly asked us to state our business. I was rather taken aback at his tone & Alex looked positively furious, but Morgan was able to answer calmly, telling him who we were, what we'd brought & what we were doing in town other than that.

    It must have been the mention of food, but the tone changed appreciably after that. The mayor told us to: "Wait one", then a minute or so later, opened the main doors & came out, all smiles & hand shakes. From suspicious, he turned positively effusive. I have to keep reminding myself, we're all still under tremendous pressures, some more so than others. We introduced ourselves again, remembering this time, to identify ourselves as freinds of Andy & Joe. That certainly made us welcome - those two have been working pretty hard. The sight of two wagons full of food for the working parties didn't hurt either - I thought the mayor would cry with gratitude & I was especially glad Noreen threw in those dozen fruit pies. The fruit was frozen & had to be used & those pies will go down a treat. Glad too, they stayed pretty much intact on the way over.

    We helped the mayor & several people at town hall unload the food, beinging the meat right to a pretty cool freezer arrangement they have in the basement. It's something like one of ours, a cold room surrounded by insulation & lots of ice. As the ice melts, it drains out through a drainage grate in the floor. The freezer was next to bare & even our contribution didn't make much of a dent. I hope other people are able to provide.

    The mayor informed us, it was about ten o'clock by then, that body disposal teams were busy & had been since shortly after dawn. They rarely returned for a lunch & we could expect to see them shortly before mid-afternoon. They'd be too tired to work much longer by that time & those that felt able to keep on, usually returned anyway; ater then busied themselves with other chores around the building.

    He offered us a tour of Town Hall to show us how operations were currently set up & we gladly accepted. Basically, they're using the south end of the building. It makes sense to take advantage of the natual light & sun in this way. The mayor's former office, a huge room really, has become "Town Central" with 4-5 desks crowded together, facing each other in a square type arrangement. Several large tables are pushed up against the walls & those walls are covered with lists & maps. The mayor & his current "staff" of 5 work out of this room & 2 smaller rooms leading directly off of that one serve as sleeping quarters. There's a bathroom there too & two large storage closets which are being put to good use. Just down the hall are two conference rooms, large ones, which are being used as dormitories for some of those working to remove bodies. A surprising number of those people live in town anyway & prefer to go home at night, so the two rooms provide just enough space for those bunking in here.

    The rooms are neat & although crowded, well laid out, comfortable looking & pleasant. There are a number of cots & air mattresses topped by different bedding - bed rolls, sleeping bags & some nice, cushy comforters. The closets & bathrooms off the conference/meeting rooms have been turned into wash areas for the workers as they prepare to work, clean up for meals or simply try to expunge the remnants of a nasty day's work. A little farther down the hall are two small rooms which have been turned into "quiet rooms", rooms where workers can go to pray alone, cry, think - whatever they need to do to get through this horrid task. The minister drops by several times a day, especially in the evening & the mayor tells me he prays with the wrokers every morning before they start their day's work - praying for strength for them. He also visits the grave site as often as he can to pray over the dead.

    Much of City Hall is unused right now but the Mayor said he's made sure all rooms are kept clean, closed up & that the windows are whole. In time, they'll be needed again & he wants to make sure they're up to the task. Some are being used to store extra supplies & much of a local stationary store's stock has found its way here. There are candles, books & games, decks of cards, extra clothing & a good deal of canned food as well as boxes & packages of cookies & various crackers. There is a surprising amount of condensed milk which they use in tea & coffee for the most part & the mayor offered the information that several days a week, 2 locals are providing them with fresh milk.

    We were surprised to find the radio station had "moved" to City Hall. It does make sense. Most of the news they broadcast originates here & this saves trips back & forth. They had enough volunteers to move over the equipment they really needed, as well as to mount the antennas they use. It seems Andy was handy there! Morgan, Alex & I agreed to an interview after lunch & once we got over the nerves, rather enjoyed the experience. The radio dudes seem to have a good grip on their job & have really become comfortable with their new roles. I'm not sure they appreciate how valuable they've become to people, certainly that's the case at the farm.

    To us, they're an absolute lifeline & a focus point on dreary days & those days where nothing seems to come easily. They let us know how things are going locally, how many people are here & what they're doing to cope. They provide the minister an opportunity to reach many more people than he could simply walking around. The doctor & nurses are now able to broadcast simple health infomration several times a day. They;re looking at what comes into the clinic during the day & when they see more than a few of the same sort of thing, give general advice - not a bad idea.

    The newsies are also doing little features about those groups willing to be so discussed. That's what we were doing today; talking about who we are at the farm, what we're doing this spring & summer & how much work we figure it's going to be. What I liked was how they asked us what we individually found the most difficult ot challenging & how we coped. This interview was taped, so they were able to "edit out" the hesitations, 'oh' & 'um' noises we all made. They caught me flat on the 'what did i find hardest' question. I finally mumbled something about feeling like I had no REAL connection there, no family member or close friend with me. For Morgan, it was self imposed pressure to do as much as he could to make life easier for all & for Alex, it was the idea of being not quite a kid, not quite a man - really feeling trapped in between & not truly prepared for adulthood & whatever that means right here & now. I can see his point.

    It was too bad Drew or Noreen weren't here. One of the newscasters asked how much we were planting for so many people & animals & why? Morgan sort of handled that one, but pointed out that such practical information should come from an experienced farmer. Morgan DID point out that experienced or not, growing enough food for a year was going to be a LOT of work & that people should be preparing land right now.

    The news station also likes to cover stuff such as numbers of people in town; we're holding at about 1200 lately & is acting as a central clearing station for people with certain skills looking for specific situations. People with any practical skills are in high demand as those are sorely lacking. Farmers, medical types, carpenters & other trades people are especially wanted. We're now starting to hear of widowers left with children & no wives, looking for 'female' companionship & a mother type for their kids in exchange for a hard working man - the usual type of thing. There are plenty of women alone or left with young children, so hopefully those folks will match up. The elderly are surprisingly in demand, even those with medical conditions. Many have memories of days past when the skills we so badly need now were more common. Some of course, are past DOING, but they can certainly teach & supervise. They can also watch babies while more able & strong people do the harder physical work.

    The staff at City Hall consists of 5 people now - the mayor, 2 clerks, the former city works manager & a janitor who's certainly had a major change in responsabilities! Currently, they're doing their best to keep current the list of those who have chosen to stay here or settle here & where they're staying. They're also keeping lists of people looking for certain placements or situations; groups of like minded people to live & work with. They're also noting identities, when obtainable, of the bodies being dealt with by the burial teams. Homes in reasonably good shape available for settlers are also noted & the new people trickling in are invited to look at several.

    Currently, there's a cluster of people living close to City Hall, many of whom have converted rooms over stores into homes. Many of these are former professionals, who are offering their services in trade for food & other goods they can't obtain simply by walking into an empty store. Further out is a band of farmers, mainly groups of people like us determined to grow what we need as well as a surplus to trade for services & to pay in lieu of taxes to the mayor & his band of merry men & women. There's the radio guys too - thankfully Alex thought to keep back a pie for them!

    The mayor gave us a heads up of a 'town meeting' he's planning on calling a couple of Sunday's from now. He thinks any later than that & most will be too busy farming & gardening. Tom & Drew will be delighted. Well, we all will be. It will be nice to see others, talk over our problems & feel like we're doing something about our situation.

    Lordie, I really wanted to say so much more, but I'm wiped. We did do a lot more today & I know Noreen has plans for me tomorrow. I'd best finish this off when I have some apre time tomorrow. Morgan, Alex, Andy & Joe will no doubt have something to add, probably tomorrow once they get some rest. I could use about 11 hours of sleep but think I'll be lucky to get 6 or so tonight. Better hit the hay...
    More of my thoughts on flu/health matters and the latest news can be found at [url=]The Laboratory[/url].

  10. #170
    Join Date
    May 2001
    Kingston, Ontario, Canada

    mid afternoon, 22/04/03

    For someone who's supposed to be in shape... I'm pretty stiff & sore today. My hands still feel as though they have a death grip on the wagon handles & I've got a nasty blister at the back of my right heel - serves me right for wearing a pair of hiking shoes not well broken in. Alex is looking a bit tired & Morgan openly admits a run like that is tiring at his age. Maybe it should be for him, but not for me. If it weren’t for the fact that I'll be working my buns off these next few months, I'd be thinking about working out. Yeah, all this work will be enough of a workout. I slept like the dead though & managed a whole 8 hours or so, thus no excuse not to catch up here.

    I had been speaking of City hall & how it's set up for the work the Mayor & his people have undertaken. I had mixed feelings as they showed us & described what they're doing. At times I could hardly speak being almost reduced to tears at how far we seem to have fallen. From a bustling building with more work & staff than might be imagined, they're down to the Mayor & 4 staffers. Sure they're busy enough, but there's SO much that used to be dealt with here that's no longer in the picture. What a shame & I have to tell myself, over & over that times have changed & this is the new status quo, unless & until we face more changes.

    They've done a super job putting together their lists. I had the rotten job of making sure Mom & Dad were added, something I should have taken care of last time, but didn't think about - denial? Morgan added his wife & Alex those of his family he knew were dead. I wish I'd had time to scan the whole list of those living here as well as the lists of identified dead. I'll be able to do that later - we all will, but do you have any idea how happy I would be to see the names of anyone I know who's still alive? I feel even the sight of those people I wasn't too fond of would lift my spirits a bit.

    They've got some pretty cool maps too. There's a big map showing where the burial teams have been, the homes & offices they've checked & cleared of bodies. It's amazing how much of that has already been done. In some cases, they discovered that survivors had already done that sort of work for them. But then again, no one could be happy settling into a home or other property with the dead lying in heaps all around them! When they did determine that people had been buried, they respectfully asked to see where, in order to check that the burials had been properly done - bodies buried deep enough & if that wasn't possible, that they were covered with rocks to keep scavengers out. One of the burial team members had the good idea to ask people remaining in homes where many had died; those who had buried their own dead, if they wished for the minister to stop by when he could, to share prayer & perhaps speak a service over the graves. I'm not sure I would have thought of that. I'm sure the minister is hoping for another minister to be found or to show up. He's run off his feet right now with people wishing for services for their dead or counseling.

    One of the nurses at the clinic had some experience in grief counseling, in a very informal way. She dealt with cancer patients - children if you can imagine & saw more than her share of grieving families. When she can be spared, she's aiding the minister in this sort of duty. Not being religious, she's not in a position to offer prayers, but is certainly willing to listen to grieving people & offer what comfort she can. I suspect over the next few months as we learn to deal with our own grief, we'll all become counselors of a sort.

    Boy, hard to keep myself on track when I have so much to write about. I WAS still speaking of City Hall. The maps - the mayor found an old mimeograph machine; think that's what he called it; some kind of copier where you add ink & crank out copies by hand. I'm not sure I understand how it works & it's kind of messy but for simple jobs, the mayor says it works fine. He's copied several 'body free zone' maps & has those tacked up around the offices being used. He also has maps where homes & farms occupied by settlers are indicated. It was nice to see Drew's holdings shaded in. Now before I go any farther, I should mention that Drew charged Morgan & I with an important job. He wanted us tell the mayor what we were doing; how much of our current land we were attempting to farm. I know Drew is concerned about losing any of his land but if it has to come to that, wants to be sure that nothing we're currently using gets "appropriated". Imagine if say we planted a 50-acre stretch, got stuff to start growing, only to find someone else had 'rights' to it. Drew had given us a sketch map of his place, including those areas still free to be planted by others. Those areas tend to be the ones farthest from the house & some of those fields are pretty good in his opinion.

    I was nervous about the whole thing, Morgan too as we we're all terrified about our plans being messed up by others' ideas. Actually, the mayor hadn't even come close to parceling out land near us yet. Our new neighbors, the ones we've been in contact with hadn't registered & I simply told the mayor a group of people was on that farm. The 2 other sets of nearby people those neighbors had mentioned HAD registered with City Hall & indeed, the land they're occupying was 'assigned' to them by City Hall. One group, the ones our neighbors called "weird" are no such thing. They're a very small Christian community who while in no way Luddites, (I think that's the term Tom used), prefer life in simpler form. Apparently, they're well prepared for the work ahead of them. The other group consists of several adults & roughly 20 kids they've picked up along the way as they traveled here. It sure lifted my heart to know of other children & they're only about a mile away, if we cross the road & angle west of the neighbor’s place. I'm looking forward to meeting both groups.

    I asked the mayor about public access to the lists of those who are settling here, either those who've stayed or those who've settled in recently. He assured me that those lists are public as far as he's concerned but the list for public consumption might differ a bit than the ones in his office. How so? Some are a bit shy about their ages, exact locations & that kind of stuff - still feeling a bit paranoid, I guess. He's been asking everyone who registers what information they're willing to share with others & encouraging them to share as much as they can. As he said, if there's a dentist in 1 group & none elsewhere, folks would sure be happy to know one's available.

    He brought up something I hadn't considered. Many people change jobs or take up training for different ones at different stages of their lives. He's asked people to think back to jobs they've done previously & list them if some of those skills might apply today. Good point & another thing I didn't think about. Man, do I still have a lot of waking up to do!

    Anyway, after touring us through the building he asked us if WE had questions & boy, did we ever! Alex wanted to know if we had any way of knowing or being able to predict how many more people might show up. Apparently not & the only hoped newcomers would come with most of what they need. Morgan asked, subsequent to that, how much "stuff" was left in town to be used by people. The short answer is not much. If you don't have what you need now, it's going to be tough to come by it unless you find someone with a surplus willing to trade. Clothing is still available, as is some footwear. In the area of household goods, everything electric & electronic is still lying there - useless. Pots, pans, most kitchen stuff is not in short supply. Bedding, anything medical - gone. Animal feed is pretty much gone but with grass starting to grow, that's not that critical. Alex mentioned we were planning on growing enough of that for SOME trade but that we couldn't predict how much we'd have come harvest time. Seed is almost gone & thank God Drew has lots! The janitor suggested new folks might want to check outlying farms, which are unoccupied; they might have seed stashed away. Most farmers have extra. However people get seed, I suspect this next year will be make or break for many feed & seed wise.

    In terms of animals, Drew seems to be one of few with an appreciable number of cattle. I took a note down to warn Drew about that - we may need to guard them against theft. Pork is certainly not in short supply although laying hens are. Again, I took notes for Drew. And made a note to myself to grab even more ammo. I can't imagine needing more than we have, but you never know. I think Tom knows something about making his own & I wish I'd thought to ask what he might need for that - next time.

    We didn't feel comfortable taking up too much of the mayor's time & told him we wanted to spend a few hours walking through parts of town, just having a look for ourselves - was there anything we should know about in advance. He replied that town seemed pretty quiet; no loose cannons so to speak, out there that he knew of but that being careful wasn't a bad idea. We thanked him when he told us the men would be back by three at the latest & took ourselves to the park for our packed lunch. We ended up having to sit on garbage bags - pretty wet & dirty out there. Lunch was quiet, we all had some things we wanted to think about.

    After lunch we decided to take stroll, heading towards some of the major residential districts. Weird, weird & weirder; that's about how we summed it up. Surreal was how Alex put it, again & again. Imagine walking through neighborhoods you know fairly well - I had town friends I used to spend time with. I walked by many houses I knew. Most were dark, empty - cold looking. Some looked to have been inhabited for a time but are now abandoned. The mayor explained that homes which have been checked & cleared have been marked - black spray paint 'x' marks mean a house was checked & bodies were disposed of. For anyone more curious than that, the number of bodies found & dealt with is written beside the 'x'. A green 'x' means that the house has been checked & is available for others to use. A blue 'x' means a home is being used & a red 'x' means a house was checked & cleared with no bodies being found.

    There are way too many 'x' marks of every color but blue & we all found ourselves in tears at times. Most of the blue homes are in clusters; 2 or 3 here, 5 or 6 there. At these locations at least, smoke could be seen coming from chimneys & in some cases, people watched us from inside. We waved, some waved back & boy, did that feel good. For the first time in ages, I felt like maybe there was some hope of getting through this. Some homes, those with larger properties, showed some signs of being worked. By that I mean, gardening tools could be seen, I could smell freshly turned earth & some attempts at gardening were evident.

    I think the best example of that was where we ended up spending the most time. A group of 5 families located right beside an elementary school is working their butts off turning over land in order to plant food for themselves. They've already got what Morgan thinks is an acre grubbed up - the earth turned a few inches & kids pulling up what weed roots are visible. We saw this bunch well before they saw us & we stopped & Alex bellowed out a hello. They all stopped & several of the adults grabbed rifles. Well, we'd do the same. We put our hands up & walked slowly forward, stopping well clear of everyone.

    Morgan was quick to say we were "just visiting" & intended to pass by only, unless that was objectionable to them. I guess it wasn't, for after a few minutes of looking us over, one of the men, waved us on. We were almost past, still well clear, when a woman marched out of a nearby house, hollering at us to stop & berating them men in the same breath. What kind of savages would we think they were, couldn't they at least have thought to offer us a hot drink, did we need to use the bathroom, who were we & did we want to visit a while - all in one breath! Wow. It was clear who was in charge of THAT group & I don't think she was much over five feet tall.

    This lady must be seventy, if she's a day, but if she's this dynamic at seventy, I'd hate to think of what she was like at forty! She did nothing less than march us into her home, a cute little two-bedroom bungalow; sit us down & feed us coffeecake & tea! She had to shove quite a few things around to make room for us to sit down. She lives alone, along with three cats & a house full of boxes, bins, barrels & bags - her supplies she proudly told us. What a character!

    She looked at Alex & demanded to see his hands, and then grumped something about him needing to learn what work is really about. Mine more or less passed inspection - thanks to dog team calluses & she grudgingly allowed that Morgan for a 'young pup', seemed to have SOME idea what work was about. She "demanded" to know who we were, where we were from & what our plans were, not even giving us time to answer before she told me I should stay - that her grow needed a few more fertile young women!!!

    I caught Morgan & Alex rolling their eyes at each other & unfortunately, so did she! She stopped asking questions & fixed them both, almost at the same time, with a glare that would make the biggest WWF wrestler want to sink under his chair. Before she could say anything, Alex stood up & more politely than I would have told her that I was fairly well situated, but of course if I wished to stay here, I was quite free to do just that. Morgan & I didn't know what to say, but luckily, Phoebe, (her name), found this hilarious & spent the next few minutes almost rolling around, holding her sides & laughing.

    She calmed down a bit at that point & things regained some semblance of normalcy. She quieted down considerably, apologized & told us she was hungry for company, for news, for someone with backbone. It seems the group she's with has no clue of what they should be doing & while she's quite glad to provide all the direction required, she's tired of her one-woman tyranny act. I suspect if she shut up once in a while, gave people a chance to catch their breath, she might find they're not as useless as all that.

    Anyway, she gave us a quick rundown of her group's story. As does she, most were living right where they are now & were a lucky cluster, which escaped death from smallpox. All have had losses & most were sick themselves & survived. One of the little girls is blinded, evidently permanently. There are a total of 8 adults & 6 children in this group & of the adults, only 1 other is a woman. According to Phoebe, they plan to stay right where they are. They have the field at the school for gardening, a small stream nearby & she plans of having the men "get busy" building some kind of water diversion system into the fields, although she didn't give details. She snorted when we questioned what relevant skills anyone had. Precious little was her answer, but sweat & "good direction" should take care of that.

    We stayed a while longer, mainly because we couldn't easily leave, then Alex pointedly looked at his watch & 'reminded' us that we had to meet the men back at City hall. That was all the excuse Morgan & me needed & we 'took our leave, as Alex put it. I swear we staggered rather than walked out of there. As if smallpox wasn't enough of a steamroller - this woman gives Stalinism a good name!

    I think we were back at City Hall within about 20 minutes, simply retracing our steps & some of the teams were coming in as we arrived. That was a very sobering moment for me. I thought I had some idea of the difficulties they faced, but no, I didn't have a clue. I've never seen more tired, discouraged looking people in my life & I can't imagine anyone having to cope with this sort of job for longer than a month or so. Those who came in barely noticed us, but they've been seeing newcomers anyway. They simply staggered in, headed right to their quarters & I imagine, washed & changed.

    Andy & Joe was among the last people in & boy, did their eyes light up when they saw us. They both look as though they've aged decades & both were emphatic that they were ready to come home NOW. The teams have been augmented by newcomers who haven't decided quite what they're going to do yet, so they feel no guilt about leaving. We gave them time to clean up, change & say good bye to all their work mates before heading out.

    They were obviously tired, hell, beyond tired & I assured them that we were in no hurry to get home; we had light for hours yet & no one would worry until it was getting truly dark. They didn't even really answer, just nodded & prepared to head off. No one said a word for the first fifteen or so minutes, then Joe stopped us, walked away, sat down & burst into tears. Andy gestured to us to just leave him be, then took us aside - hard to do with dogs eager to get home & told us it had been bad, very bad & they'd talk about it later, but not now. Fair enough, I thought & I know Alex & Morgan couldn't help but see it the same way. We waited until Joe got a grip on himself, then continued on our way.

    When we were within a half mile, Alex loudly announced that he was going to 'run ahead' & let them know we were back; also, make sure some hot water was ready for the men to take a proper long shower. Morgan & I knew he simply wanted to warn everyone to give Joe & Andy plenty of space. From the looks of them, it's going to take some time before they're ready to speak of anything they've seen or done in town these last few weeks.

    And so, we came home. I'm not sure how they managed, but all were 'busy' with chores, save for Louise & Anne, both of whom embraced their men & drew them into the warmth of the house. They were able to take good hot showers, change into clothes that have no connection with death & enjoy a quiet meal. Both were in bed well before nine & Drew & Tom decided they should be left to lie in this morning until they were ready to get up. Joe was up early, but Andy left it until almost noon & he still looks as though he has the cares of the world on his shoulders. Both men have lost weight. I doubt their appetites have been normal & they've no doubt had heavy work to do.

    Today, we've kept busy but I have neither the time, patience or heart to talk much about that. Joe & Andy will tell their own stories & someone else, I forget who now, will chronicle today's activities. I've got to see to the hens - seems the kids have managed to catch a cold somewhere & they're all looking pretty droopy save for David. Their moms or substitute moms have decided they're to eat early then get to bed, so those of us who were out yesterday are dividing up their chores.

    Hope my hands don't feel like this tomorrow!
    More of my thoughts on flu/health matters and the latest news can be found at [url=]The Laboratory[/url].

  11. #171
    Join Date
    May 2001
    Kingston, Ontario, Canada

    late, 22/04/03

    Man, I thought I was tough, in shape & all that crap. Guess not & I'm not too happy about it. Shit! Sorry, but... damn. Oh never mind, I'll write it anyway. It's not like any kids are gonna be reading this anytime soon. I've been mucking out stalls for years, working young horses with more energy than brains since I could sit on them properly & I THOUGHT I was strong. I thought I had muscles. Maybe I do, but they're sure not the ones I need for this frigging ploughing crap!

    Oh man, and Drew says other things later may be harder? I hope it's just his sick idea of a joke. This is insane. It's not even like I did that much of the ploughing. Annette & I had to get every horse working today watered, fed, checked over & harnessed up & later, I worked the riding horses some & gave the kids more riding lessons. That's more standing around & walking in small circles than anything else. I ploughed maybe a whole 6 furrows today & they weren't THAT long. But my back & shoulders feel like the defensive secondary of my school's football team used them as tackling dummies. Man this sucks big time.

    Okay, I'm whining, I know. But no one is gonna see this right, not for a long time anyway? There's no way, NO WAY I'm gonna run & whine to Drew or Noreen about how hard the work is. Drew did tons more ploughing than I did & Noreen did 6 furrows herself, then hauled water, helped cook supper & rounded up the kids for showers 'cause they were filthy. You never see her whining. Oh she gets a little bitchy sometimes, maybe her age & that menapauze or whatever it's called - that females thing that turns you nasty when you start getting old, but she never bitches about work.

    The only thing that makes me feel better about this is that Alex is just as sore & tired - he told me he was & he outweighs me by about 40 pounds & must be a good six inches taller. I don't think I've finished growing yet. Maybe that's why I'm so tired. That & all he had to do yesterday was run into town with Morgan & Sarah. I still had the regular stuff here to do. Oh listen to me - counting jobs like a four year old - sheesh! I must be more tired than my body & brain have sense enough to know about. Drew did say it was gonna be hard at first but that we'd get used to it. Some of the old books Tom has us reading talk about farmers & settlers ploughing up virgin prairies, day after day & during the evening when they had enough moonlight. They still managed the odd barn raising & weddings & funerals & stuff. Were they that mush tougher than we were? Or just used to the work?

    I could have killed though. At one point this morning, right after my first stint at ploughing, I looked over across the road to the mailbox. Those 2 girls were standing there, just standing there looking at us working our asses off. When the hell are they gonna get real about this? Honestly, they only have a few pairs of adults over there, a bunch of kids & if there's any work getting done, I don't know who's doing it. It's sure not those 2. They're not hurting for food either & it makes me wonder. The one girl, the shorter one, has a gut on her that makes me think she hasn't missed too many meals. She must have been in a pretty good spot, but her parents, the little I've seen of them through the binoculars anyway, look as skinny as anyone around here - unless she was REALLY fat & only has some stomach fat left to lose.

    Argh; maybe I'll feel better after some sleep or something. But I promised Tom I'd do the journal tonight. I haven't come close to doing my share & HE really looks wiped. He worked pretty hard today for someone who I'm told had a heart attack not that long ago & I didn't hear any complaints from him. He was awfully slow eating his supper though & a couple of times, I could have sworn he was falling asleep into his plate! I think Anne must have nudged him awake a few times & he sure didn't hang around long after the meal was done & the kitchen cleaned up. No one did tonight. Everyone seemed way too tired to be sociable & I think Drew & Tom; Morgan too, had some stuff they wanted to talk about before they hit the sack. Yeah I'm curious but not curious enough to bother asking. Too tired anyway.

    Sometimes I feel like we're all just too crowded here, that there's way too many people & far too much work, but after a day like today, when I count up what all got done, I'm impressed that we can do so much. Look, we're all up by five thirty, just as it's getting light. At least we're pretty sure it's around five thirty - don't have anywhere we can do super-accurate time checks anymore. By quarter to six, I'm dressed, have been to the outhouse, (we need more of those!) & I'm at the corral checking the horses. I make sure they have fresh water, then give the mares & geldings a good feed of grain. If they've been inside, rare now that it's spring, Annette & I muck out stalls. If they've been out, once the draft horses have eaten, Annette & I get them harnessed & make sure the foals going to the fields with their moms are looking okay. Before harnessing, we have to groom them - not a good idea to have dirt or sand under harness, makes for nasty rubs. The horses not working go out into the pasture with the cattle. Once the horses are handed over to the workers, Annette & I have plenty of other work. We get the evening feeds ready in case we're too tired to think straight then. We check spare harness & make sure anything needing repairing or re-enforcing is handed over to Tom. At that point, we head over to help supervise the kids as they rock pick, weed & grub up roots. They usually need help stacking rocks once the piles get big. Later we may use the rocks for fencing or 'road work'. Once the kids have done a healthy load of work, Annette & I give them riding lessons on the ponies. Most are at least trotting now, alone or with the help of one of us. Jared & Izzy are even cantering a little bit & I've seen Izzy eyeing the tiny pole jump I'm using to get a few of the horses used to jumping.

    Jeez, by the time all the kids have rotated through fieldwork & riding lessons & a stint with Tom & MT doing some lessons, it’s lunchtime. After lunch, we make sure the workhorses are okay for the afternoon work. With three teams working now, one team gets a half-day of rest. That gives Annette & I a few hours to help around the place. We'll bring food & drinks to field workers, make sure the kids stay on the job & stay safe & do lots of fetch & carry type stuff. Morgan is teaching me a bit of carpentry & Tom has me doing some discussion of books with him when we're working.

    I haul water, wood & fetch supplies back & forth. Drew's asked me tomorrow, to take one of the geldings & ride the fence lines to make sure they're holding up all right. That shouldn't take long but he also wants me to check for any signs that people have been around. Joe will be coming with me - he's okay on a horse if we go slowly. That's just my work. Here are some of the things the others are doing this week.

    Drew is concentrating on getting the ploughing done, using his tractor & stored up fuel. Shit, was I glad to discover he had diesel stashed away. He got that started today once the rest of us ploughing types were started with the horses. I forget exactly how much he said he got done, but it looked like a lot to me. It's going to be a lot to plant, weed, hoe & whatever else needs doing. Drew said it's a field where he'll plant soy & that he uses for feed or something. Like, I know farming - sure! I'll take his word for it. Anyway, he was at it all day & says he's got days left before he's happy that he's ploughed as much as we can use. A lot of stuff we can't plant until weeks & weeks from now & I asked him about that - why plough now? He said that gives us a chance to haul out any huge outbreaks of weeds & he'd rather use the diesel while he KNOWS he has it. I guess he means it could disappear, the tanks burst or something like that. Whatever.

    His tractor worked fine, as did the equipment he uses for ploughing. He had one little breakdown, but it was just a rusty bolt he was able to reach easily & fix. He said his tractor is pretty much new & he's got parts to repair it. It's the fuel that is gonna run out first. Whatever, as long as we have enough for this year. No way it can be this bad next year. Other people, including the government have got to be alive. Somebody is gonna show up one day & tell us things are getting better soon. There has to be fuel out there - I remember mom talking to somebody about the strategic reserve - lakes of oil & gas buried underground or something. Surely there's one around here & we just have to find a way to tap it. If there's months worth of fuel down there, there's gotta be some left.

    Cindy & Louise are lumbering around looking HUGE, well to me anyway. I feel guilty sometimes that I can walk so easily while they have to go slowly. I know they get tired pretty easily, even though they're not working quite as hard as we are. They still put in long days though. We're getting kind of strange meals as they try to use up frozen meat & vegetables. I shouldn't mind too much - once we get into the smoked & salted meat, meals might not be so great. We're getting some strange combinations of frozen vegetables though. Good thing there are so many of us to eat them! They're also, with Noreen's help, cleaning the house again, I think because the neighbors are coming over for Sunday dinner. Louise has been eyeing all of us & muttering something about haircuts. She's not getting near me with the clippers!

    Noreen's mentioned that come summer, some of the bedrooms we're using get really hot - mine & Alex as well as Morgan’s little attic cave were among those she mentioned. I've got to talk to Alex, but I may decide to sleep outside, maybe it would help in guarding the stock or something. When I ride out tomorrow, I mat check the wood line for a good spot where we could set up a tent. If we find a few spots like that, we could move around every few days. If Morgan & Andy go for it, we could even have 2 'remote locations'. With some rifles & a few dogs, I can't imagine anything sneaking up on us.

    Anne is putting together some first aid kits for the barns, the tractor & wants to stash a couple in waterproof boxes at various spots near the back fence lines. I think that's a good idea. It's not as if we can race home in 2 seconds flat if someone gets hurt bad. She's really getting into this herbal; medicine stuff too. It's incredible how much of the plants here can be used for different sicknesses. I told her if I got a cold or something, a sprain or bad bruise, she could experiment on me. That would be one way of finding out what's useful. She's told us she'd love to get into town, to talk to the doctor there. I think she wants to do more than go in for the day - in her shoes, I'd love to spend a few days talking to the other medical types, especially with two women here gonna have babies soon.

    Noreen wants a trip to town too. I know I'm making that sound like they want to go & party or something, but no. Like Anne, she has definite ideas about how she's going to spend her time. She wants to get pickling salt, vinegar, canning supplies - I think that's pretty important if we have to eat mostly our own stuff next year. The women are sort of rationing sugar lately. That makes me a bit nervous. We're already limited on goodies - what I wouldn't give for a honking big take out something or other & when we start having to watch sugar intake, oh man! I wonder if we could grow sugar plants - whatever they are. Beets I think & I don't know if they'll grow here or how we'd get them.

    Morgan was happy to get out of here yesterday. I don't know if Sarah mentioned it, but he ran into someone he knew before The Outbreak. He told us it was someone he never had any time for & that circumstances hadn't changed how he felt about the guy. That's almost funny or would be, if there weren't so few of us left. Morgan says he's living in some house; him & a couple of other people & from the looks of things, they're just hanging by the windows waiting for someone to come along & bail him out. I'm sure glad we've got no lazy people here. Oh hey, none of us are crazy about shtloads of work, but it's gotta be done, right? At least if we want to eat it does. Morgan's busy this week, when he's not taking his turn ploughing, clearing out one of the bigger sheds - it's almost big enough to call a barn. He's cutting & replacing barn board & plans to make several calving stalls. Drew wants to make sure we don't lose any calves next year or at least a lot fewer, if the weather gets nasty again. Alex is helping him out with that & I will be too. What we've got to figure out is an easier way to get filthy straw bedding away from the barns/sheds & closer to the fields where we plan on using it. Drew has warned us that later this week, it will be time to start hauling that stuff into some of the fields to use as fertilizer. Yuck! The stuff stinks already & Drew just grinned & said it gets worse later - best do it now.

    The kids are funny. They're already checking out the potatoes they planted, hoping to see them come up. Annette caught Jared digging one up this afternoon & told him, not too nicely, that potatoes & other plants needed to stay in the ground to grow! Poor Jared, he just wanted to see! Cindy & Louise are busy too watering the seedlings in the house. They started tomatoes, red & green peppers & all kinds of other stuff to transplant later. I promised that tomorrow, I'd move containers of plants around to get better or different light. Some of them are leaning way over towards the windows. Most are still alive though & I'm looking forward to eating them. The girls wanted to try to start some peas & Noreen let them plant a little patch of ground near the front porch. If they come up, great. If not, the girls can learn why not. I think it might yet be too cold, but what do I know? The grass is sure starting to come up & other stuff in the field - some wheat that was planted last fall & other stuff - I have no idea what.

    Tom worked hard today & Anne wants him to slow down a bit tomorrow. The kids have gotten off easy lately with reading & math & stuff but tomorrow, he'll work with them after lunch for an hour or 2. Or maybe in the morning if it's really cold. He's got a really bas blister on his left hand - he was wearing a glove but it somehow got pinched & he didn't want to complain about it. It's a nasty looking blister, all raw & open & Anne told him - no messing with the animals tomorrow & not until it scabs over. She keeps threatening him with tetanus shots!

    Jean & Sarah did laundry today after they took a shot at ploughing this morning. They were yapping about something this afternoon for hours - God only knows what. Women never seem to run out of things to talk about. I think Jean plans to take the kids to the corral tomorrow after they've burned off a bit of energy hauling rocks around & talk to them about cows; how stupid they can be, how unpredictable. They ARE big animals; even the babies & the kids could easily be hurt. I've done it already with the horses, but will have to do it again. Sarah has told Drew the dogs; most of them need a good bit of work in the next few days. Morgan will hitch up the stone sledge to a team & with Andy & Joe's help, they're gonna haul rocks out to the back fields, near the fence lines. There's a few spots out there turning into sinkholes, especially right under the fences. The rocks can be used to shore up fence posts & fill in gaps underneath.

    Tom had an idea about using some of the rocks in one of the deeper sections of the stream as a sort of fridge. I don't have a clue what he's talking about & he says he's not sure either! It's something he remembered reading about years ago & he wants to see if he's got any information about how to build something like that. I wish he'd come up with a way to make ice! I mentioned that & he got that look in his eyes... darn! I didn't mean to think up more work for anybody & we see enough ice in the winter.

    Well you know, I'm wiped & tomorrow ain't gonna be any less work. I'd better sneak into the kitchen for a snack, I'm STARVING thes days, then get to bed. I hope the rest of the week goes well & that my muscles stop hurting this much.
    More of my thoughts on flu/health matters and the latest news can be found at [url=]The Laboratory[/url].

  12. #172
    Join Date
    May 2001
    Kingston, Ontario, Canada

    23/04/03, mid afternoon

    MT here again, 'back at you' as the CB radio people used to say many years ago. Goodness, it wasn't that many years was it? Today, it simply seems that way. I've picked up a touch of head cold, probably from the children. Little rascals sniffed & sneezed for perhaps 18 hours, then magically recovered - must be all the good food & work. I may be a few days feeling this poorly & Anne ordered me to take to my chair, to write & to rest. I'm getting a little grumpy about all these directions to 'rest'. Who has time to rest, really? The able bodies & young are working almost until they drop these last few days & little complaining is being heard. Granted, they're probably far too tired too complain, but nevertheless, it's encouraging to see so much effort being put out by everyone. I must tell Anne that I've gained 4 pounds in the last 2 months! Now after cancer & chemotherapy, that's excellent. My oncologist had told me I'd be lucky if I ever put the weight back on & it's amazing how much difference a few pounds can make. I won't say much about WHERE the weight has gone, as I know few people who are ever happy about where spare pounds happen to lodge. In my case, they're not really spare, so I'd best not grumble.

    Anne & Noreen spent some time today, while we were taking a short break for coffee to pitch the idea of them taking a trip to town for a few days. Anne would no doubt be most welcome at the medical clinic as an extra set of hands. I'm sure she'll learn a great deal & no doubt has things to teach. I know she's concerned about Louise & Cindy & I suspect she privately hopes to coax either the doctor or one of the nurses; there is one who's done labor & delivery before to come & "visit" for a day or so, if only to check out the women. They've no complaints about their pregnancies except I know Cindy has bad heartburn & is getting kicked to death from the inside. I suspect she's a bit confused about her due date as she looks within a few weeks of delivery. She can't be that much mistaken & perhaps is simply one of those women who gains a fair bit of weight. Or, she could simply have a large baby & that would undoubtably concern Annie. Noreen is quite determined to get to town & bring home canning supplies & I have to agree with her. We could use a lot of pickling & coarse salt as well, especially as we'll not be able to freeze meat for some many months yet & we'd all hate to see good food wasted. I suppose we can always trade some of it with neighbors, if they have anything we can use. But I don't blame either of the women for wanting to get away for a day or two, perhaps a bit more. It's hard being confined to this one small location. Alex & Joe were away for a time, although that hardly qualifies as a break. Sarah, Morgan, Alex have been away. Noreen was the one time, as was Jean, but I think it would do everyone good to get away for a time.

    Sam & Maxine could certainly use some relief. They both continue to be very quiet, although I see no signs that worry me unduly. They're keeping weight on & I think they're both sleeping reasonably well - they surely must be with all the work needing doing. Maxine is branching out in terms of cooking, going through recipe books & trying new things. With this number of people it's hard to make something no one likes, although she’s keeping track of the more popular items & those easiest to prepare. She took a walk earlier today on her own - something I was glad to see. She headed off to the woods after letting me know she wouldn't be long. She wasn't gone more than 2 hours & looked somewhat lighter in spirit when she returned. Jared - bless that boy. He'd seen her leave & watched for her to come back in sight. When he saw her, he walked up to her, carrying a little bunch of violets he'd found somewhere. I saw him give them to her, then take her hand & lead her somewhere for a bit. She told me later he'd found a fox den & wanted to share that with her - how sweet! The idea of a fox den near by is far less sweet, I'm afraid. Thinking of a mother fox with kits this close to the hen house is worrisome. I told Drew & Noreen immediately & I think there are "plans" afoot to make said den & its inhabitants disappear. I'll have to warn Maxine, in case Jared notices the absence of his new discovery. It seems a shame, but we can't afford to be soft.

    Sam plans to help Morgan with his barn project this week. I think he still feels a lot of anger about Greg's death, anger he can't direct anywhere as it simply happened. Some hard, physical work might help right now. The anger is displayed in terse, clipped speech, little expression on his face & he looks as though he's a wire wound too tightly. I've noticed the children seem nervous around him, as if they're not sure how to talk to him, how to approach him... I hope that passes. He's in so much pain though & lately, has turned from God. I can understand he's angry & even understand that he feels this is God’s 'fault' somehow, but he'll have to come to terms with that in his own way, in his own time. I think perhaps HE may need to go to town with the women. He's handy enough with the dogs & Sarah's aim in teaching others to work with them was to free herself from being the chauffeur when such trips needed making. I know she wants to spend time working the land herself as she doesn't feel working her teams is as much of a contribution as what others are doing.

    Mark took his morning break with me - it was clear to me he wanted to talk over something & it was just a matter of letting him get to it in his own way. Oh to be young again, although that may not be so good. He wanted my honest opinion as to how long we might be faced with living this way. The poor boy; he’s terrified he doesn't know enough, can't learn what he needs to fast enough & can't keep up to the men. I remind myself he’s the youngest of the "adults" & somewhat poised between being a child & a man. I told him what I thought, that we were in this mess for quite some time, probably years but that we ALL had much to learn & God surely had many things to put in our path. He paled at that, but I give him credit for not saying much after that, just nodding & obviously thinking. I told him to come on back this evening after supper, we could talk more if he had more questions. Her only had time for a break of fifteen or so minutes & he's not one to take extra time.

    It must be so different for the teens. The adults have all LIVED; we've laughed & loved, married, borne children in most cases & worked. We've had experience of people & places, have shared & argued over new ideas & most of us have had a reasonable amount of education. But for Alex, Mark & Annette, childhood was just behind them & much of what we older ones have lived lay ahead of them. Now they're afraid & sad - how many of those experiences will they miss? Perhaps many but to balance that, they'll experience many situations most of us never dreamed possible as younger folk. Poor Annette; she's already faced an indescribable dilemma & to her credit, seems to have come to terms with it. I know Jake & Joe have spoken to her about their experiences & some of the very hasty decisions they were forced to make under strained circumstances. The boys have dealt with quite a bit too & I marvel at the strength & flexibility the three have shown.

    But it's still sad to think that their plans for their futures may be gone permanently. Granted, I doubt they really knew what they wanted to do with their lives. Annette had no clear idea & Alex was leaning towards studying English, History & such - perhaps going into journalism. That reminds me, I must push him to write a bit more. Writing needs no normalcy to be practiced & the post Outbreak world may still have media of a sort! Mark loves horses, that's clear & he may be the least affected in terms of career. Horses now will be considered as ubiquitous as cars once were, at least for the foreseeable future.

    Still, our teens are feeling as uncertain as we all are, but are still just a mite too young to realize we too are worried sick about what MIGHT happen down the road. We don't have the answers. I wonder if we think of all the right questions to ask. But of course as a young person, it's hard to be convinced that YOU are not the center of the universe & they're of an age where ego can be a hindrance. They can be reluctant to question, to voice uncertainties - perhaps we adults, the REAL adults, need to be more mindful of that. I may have a chat with Morgan on just that topic. He may not be well educated in the formal sense, but he has the most delightful sense of wonder & isn't afraid to ask questions when he doesn't know something he feels is important. He may be the best suited to coax the teenagers into being a bit more open about concerns.

    I envy our little ones. Within their age range, there are few serious worries. I do feel the need to give them plenty of hugs, they've all lost dearly loved ones & that's hard at any age. They've been thrust in amongst strangers & although they're being strong little souls, it must be terribly frightening at times for them all. I've noticed the sweet little bears Sarah made them are being well 'broken in'. That was a wonderful idea, giving the little ones an opportunity to hug something late at night. David & Ashley especially carry theirs around with them frequently. Carol & Izzy keep theirs in their beds, preferring to hug kittens instead.

    Those kittens! They're at the age now where they have more energy than brains & their mother must be having fits. Mark came out of the barn this morning followed by a most annoyed Mother Cat. He'd found one of the kittens sound asleep between the legs of one of the mares. I imagine the mare is used to such goings on for as Mark put it, she was patiently standing there with an orange kitten half draped over her front hoof with a comical look on her face. Mark swears she sighed in relief when he entered her stall & removed the brash little mite. She was only in overnight because she appeared a bit off her feed yesterday. She's fine today.

    The children spent a good hour or so with Jean & Sarah looking at calves, touching them & seeing for themselves how silly young animals can be. Such behavior may be endearing in kittens; puppies & other small animals but can be quite dangerous in larger animals. Annette reminded them of how her leg was accidentally cut by a startled foal. It's healing but looks rather nasty & I hope the children were suitably impressed.

    Mark decided today was a good day to give the children riding tests, to see what they've learned & what they still need to learn. Jared is a careful & fearless rider, an interesting combination! He can trot fairly well although it took him a few days to grasp the concept of posting to a trot. He canters a bit now too, without having a death grip on the pony. Izzy isn't keen on trotting & Mark has told her she'll not be leaving the corral until she learns to LISTEN when he tells her she must learn something. Ashley, Carol & Sammy are doing quite well & the others are coming along. All can safely walk on their own around the corral, able to turn their horses, make them start & stop as directed & Mark is satisfied that before much time has passed, they'll be fairly safe on the animals.

    He taught them to fall today & I went outside for a few minutes, (well bundled up of course), to amuse myself watching that. He explained to them that EVERY rider eventually falls & that while it couldn't be avoided, the damage to rider if not ego could certainly be minimized. He started by showing them how to roll to lose some of the force of a fall, then had them sit on a low rail & "fall" off. After doing this several times, falling in both directions; he put them on the shortest & most quiet pony & had them fall off that one. It was hard, but they managed & after a while, the boys started showing off; trying for spectacular looking "falls". Seeing as they were comfortable with that, he then had the ponies walk & had Joe walk along side for safety. He periodically had them deliberately fall off & once they had that safely under their belts, told them Joe would push them off unexpectedly. The result? One slightly bleeding nose, 2 scratched cheeks & kids who should be fairly safe at least on a pony at slow speeds.

    As a result of his hard work & probably to spur the others on to greater efforts, Mark announced that tomorrow, when he takes Drew his lunch, he'll be riding out & Jared will be going with him on one of the ponies - his first real outing. Jared looked so proud & the other envious. Izzy whined about it being "no fair", but Mark handled it well. He reminded her that riders above all needed to be reliable & that she hadn't proven herself to be open to instruction the way she should be. Certainly she was brave enough & never cried when she got bounced off, but she had to LISTEN & do what she was told in order to avoid real injury. She didn't like hearing that & stomped off looking like a thundercloud. She's been pretending Mark doesn't exist since then & he's told me that if she doesn't lose that attitude by supper, he'll not "see" her when it's time for riding lessons tomorrow! Goodness, I'm glad that girl isn't much older. She'd be giving us real fits in terms of her behavior.

    Joe & Andy have been very quiet since they returned from town. They've both taken about three showers each & I suspect I know what they're trying to wash away - the thought of & stink of death. I can't imagine some of the horrible sights they were faced with & it's a tribute to their courage & compassion that they were able to last these several weeks. The Mayor told Morgan many volunteers were showing up, but the majority begged off after a week or so, unable to face more of the work & fearing for their sanity. I pray for them every morning & every night; it's a dreadful yet much-needed task they're doing. I KNOW it's making a difference. Before that work started, there were times when the smell of death in the air grew unbearable, especially after you came out of a shower or used a strong soap. The contrast made you notice the stench again; a stench that has become so pervasive I think we hardly notice it. But now, when the wind comes from quarters that were more inhabited, there's little of that foul odor left.

    Sarah spent her lunch break with me & delighted in telling me about Phoebe. I must admit, Sarah's description gave me a good laugh. What a tartar she must be! Although, again going by Sarah’s description, the folks she's with need some direction. I'd love to meet her & my "sneaky" short term goal is to convince someone to take ME to town, Now I suppose as long as they pad a wagon well & only use a couple of dogs to pull it, it would be fairly safe. Should the wagon happen to tip, well my goodness, it's only a foot or so off the ground & about all I'd bruise would be my pride. I'd love to meet this woman. She's younger than I am, but certainly closer to me in age than anyone here & her loud manner may simply be an act to keep her group working hard.

    I feel as though I've been trapped in this chair for months now & the others are reluctant to let me go more than a few steps on my own. Goodness, what is it going to take to convince them I'm not a helpless burden? It may take me simply getting of my duff & DOING. Even that will probably give them fits, but not accomplishing much is giving me fits. I love working with the children, but often feel as though life begins just outside the front door and I'm stuck on the wrong side of it. Now Noreen allowed the girls to start some pea plants - I wonder what she'd say if she found me planting sweet peas & runner beans along the base of the front porch. It's blocked off with wooden slatting, gets the sun all day & I'm of the mind that some sweet scents in mid summer would be a treat - not to mention the extra shade. I know Morgan is hoarding some flower seeds among his things - he told me so with a wink! I'm going to try & talk him out of a few packets of flowers. I always did well with them & an old lady needs a hobby!

    Oh dear, it seems as though the line of wash that was drying has collapsed into the mud. Doesn't that just beat all? Louise looks ready to kill someone so one or more of the children must be involved. I'd best go try & prevent some possibly well justified infanticide!
    More of my thoughts on flu/health matters and the latest news can be found at [url=]The Laboratory[/url].

  13. #173
    Join Date
    May 2001
    Kingston, Ontario, Canada

    evening, 23/04/03

    Hi, Noreen here with one of my rare entries. I should be in bed - everyone else is, but I'm so mad I could spit! This just hasn't been my day & by supper, even Drew was staying well away from me, as well he should. When I told him I was planning a trip to town to pick up canning supplies, I wasn't ASKING, I was TELLING. The only discussion point in my mind was when exactly & who else might be coming with me. That man reacted as if he was filled with the righteous wrath of the Almighty Himself - silly old fool. God in heaven, it's not as if I'm planning a trip to Jamaica or Thailand for a few weeks. I simply want to get to town, pick up what I need & maybe breathe a bit of air that isn't redolent with cow crap! I haven't been off this danged place in four months other than to help with some sneaky middle of the night raids on the feed store. All well & good for Drew to tell me Sarah is younger, Andy & Joe 'tougher', (I think not!), but what about Morgan? It was fine when they couldn't spare anyone to drive the men to town, but now they've decided they can't spare me for a few days, the men have that is, yet they have no trouble with Anne leaving? "Oh she has valuable skills to pass on, some others to learn." Well EXCUSE ME! I have no skills to learn, nothing to pass on?

    That man is in sooooo much trouble with me, he may take weeks to figure out just how much. The only reason he's not sleeping in the dog house is that it's full of damned dogs. I wonder how he feels about a few more nights in the barn? I can keep up with a few dogs pulling a wagon, Sarah admits I can drive the dogs well enough to make them mind & I can outshoot Drew with either a shotgun or rifle any day. Now as far as getting along without me, the only one who could possibly "need" me over the next few nights is Drew & I'm so mad right now, he'd better forget that! My main work starts when the gardens are in.

    Right now, our two moms to be have the house well in hand. It's frankly been a relief to hand that over to them. I've had too many years in which to discover & work around all the idiosyncrasies of this old place. Oh I love it, but it can be a real trial. They're too far along to be doing much heavy lifting & such & there are enough able-bodied young around to handle that. Maxine has the cooking chores aced, Anne is better than I ever was at farmyard first aid & the 2 younger women seem to prefer the outdoors, so they're quite happy handling the farmyard chores not specifically assigned to anyone. Morgan handles maintenance, Joe mechanical & the others provide lots of brute-force labour. Folks are pretty much up to speed on caring for the animals.

    Well, tough on them. I', simply announcing tomorrow morning that on Monday, I'm GOING. If Sarah wriggles out of loaning me a dog team, I'll simply walk - it's not something I haven't done a million times before. I will cruise the stores or what's left of them & they won't "allow" me to bring a dog team, I'll simply grab a child's wagon or some such & bring home what I can. Really, I refuse to discuss this with Drew anymore. I'm long past being impressed with his thundering ultimatums - not that they ever worked with me anyway. He's my husband, not my boss & frankly, as much as I love this place, I need to get out of here once in a while. Which reminds me; it's been years since I rode, time I started again. Mark can put me through a refresher course so I don't go flying, at least not too often, but a horse gives freedom. Beats a bicycle over the fields!

    Oh, I didn't mean to rave on so but honestly, men! And if it isn't men, it's that brat Izzy. Oh the others may find her spunky, appealing, daring & brave but it's my opinion that her behind hasn't been tanned enough in the past. She IS smart as a whip, there's no denying that but she's also manipulative, sly & is going to be quite the problem if we don't get a grip on her now. She could grow up to be a wonderful, dynamic young woman or grow up to be a huge hindrance to anyone around her. I've seen girls like her before they became impossible brats & she's well on the way. Sam's theories may be current but that doesn't mean they're valid for every child. There's always one that needs so-called tough love. And that child is a candidate for it if I ever saw one.

    It was her that brought down that laundry line. Mark had offered to hang the wash for Louise & Isabelle must have overheard me warning him to make sure the line was well fastened as when the wind picks up, it can come down easily enough. No one would have wondered about it, simply assuming he hadn't fastened the line tightly enough except David came & asked Maxine if Izzy had 'brung the knife back"> Knife? She hadn't asked anyone to borrow a knife & certainly had no need for the kitchen knife we found under her bed later. I also had a close look at the clothesline & it was quite neatly CUT, not torn, frayed or otherwise worn.

    It took us about 20 minutes to find her, hiding as she was in the hayloft. Funny, it was Sam who finally lost it with her, figuring out that rustling bundle of hay was her & bellowing that he was about to start stabbing the pitchfork in the piles if she didn’t get out, NOW! Oh she came out all right, pointy little chin in the air & eyes to the ground, as defiant as ever. I've never seen Sam so mad. He grabbed her arm & positively lifted her off the hayloft in one motion, then marched her into the kitchen, where ALL the adults were waiting.

    It was MT who asked her what she had to say for herself. At first not much - just proud yet sullen defiance. Well silence can certainly be met with silence & it takes far better than your average seven year old to outface a roomful of relatively calm, patient adults. She didn't help her cause any when she DID speak however; accusingly stating it was MARK'S fault that she'd cut the line. Pardon me?

    Her logic was that he shouldn't have told her she wasn't ready to ride out of the corral yet - in her mind, she's more than ready. After all, can she not gallop around the corral three times without falling? Can she not mount by herself? Is she not able to take off the saddle when she's done & take the pony back to the paddock? Who did Mark think he was, thinking he could tell HER if she could ride or not! Drew clamped his hand - hard - on Mark's leg just before he stood up to start screaming, then in far too mild a tone, told Isabelle to go on. And so she did.

    We were being unfair, expecting her to act like one of the little kids(!?!), we wouldn't let her do anything by herself & she's oh so tired of being treated like a baby. Morgan acts as if she's a tiny baby girl, she hates sharing a room with the other girls because they ignore her & the boys are mean to her. She NEEDS her kitten indoors whither because she gets SO lonely when the others won't play with her or talk to her.

    Oh there was a few more minutes of the same sort of nonsense from her but not a word about her own flaws. Nothing about her 'not hearing' when she's asked to perform an extra chore or even pick up after herself. Not a peep about how she ruthlessly bullies the little ones into giving up bigger treats or cons them into doing some of her chores. Foolish brat to think we've missed much of that! Oh we've probably missed a fair bit, but not all of it.

    Once she appeared to be finished, Drew asked her - mild voice again & quite gravely, if she had other complaints to air before us all. No, she didn't but wasn't happy to be told her concerns would be "taken under consideration", then she'd be called back to "discuss" them. And... in the meantime... she was to get herself to her room, WITHOUT kitten, shut the door & sit on her bed, QUIETLY & stay there until one of the adults called her.

    It was just as well we were due for a mid-afternoon break, even Drew is ahead of his own schedule for ploughing. We ended up having what Tom would no doubt have called a 'spirited debate' on the whole matter of Isabelle, children & discipline under the circumstances in which we find ourselves. It was MT & the teens who initially thought it might be best to come down hard on her. The teens are young enough to remember the sort of nonsense they tried to pull at that age, as are Sarah, Cindy & Louise. The latter were quite interested, understandable as within not more than few years, they may have 'problem children' of their own to deal with. As for me, I've always been a firm believer in sparing the rod & spoiling the child. It worked with our lot & any kid I've known.

    We discussed, argued & even fought for a short time, but Sam finally slammed his hand down flat on the table - certainly getting our attention. Once our hearts started going properly again, he smiled & spoke. Oh he made good points. He started by reminding us that of the kids we had here, Isabelle causes us far & away the most frustration, worry & aggravation. He also pointed out that none of us felt we could really trust her - could we? He was right of course, none of us feel we truly can. Her chores have to be checked on constantly as she's always looking for the easiest, fastest way of doing anything - sloppy though it may be.

    When Sam brought up these things, it seemed everyone had plenty of examples. Okay, so we were pretty clear on how big a brat she can be for such a little girl. The question was - what to do about it? Sam asked us to leave it to him & Mark. He had some ideas he said, smirking just a bit & he'd fill us in before we presented this to Isabelle. Mark was quite pleased to spend a bit of time with Sam working on the "Izzy problem" & the rest of us got on with our plans for the rest of the day. They certainly didn’t include re-washing all that clothing the girls worked so hard on, but Sam told us to leave that to him. No argument from me or anyone else. We all loathe laundry above almost anything else. I'd rather lime the outhouse or clean ashes from the stoves & fireplaces.

    MT took herself off to confer with Morgan over something mysterious & later to spend some time with her New Testament. Annette volunteered to go to the mailbox & see if there was anything from the neighbors. I hope someone has been keeping the journal up to date on happenings there. I'd best ask Tom about that. Jean & Sarah decided to hitch 2 dog teams to the wagons & with Alex & Maxine, head off for the woods to pick up what deadfall they could now that the snow is gone & that ground is more accessible. They came back later with tons of wood, good kindling type stuff & the welcome news that we won't be short of rabbits for stew & pie later on in the fall & winter. It's been a while since I've skinned & cut up rabbit; not my favorite chore. There's an awful lot of cutting for precious little meat. The trick is to do what my mother used to, skin & gut them, remove the heads & feet & boil them with some herbs until the meat can easily be scraped off the bones. THEN you add the other ingredients for stew & finish it off with dumplings. Yum! If it weren't for the fact that they've got babies, I'd ask Mark or Alex to shoot a dozen or so now. I'll have to ask Mark if he saw any when he was riding fence today.

    He did ride the fence line & reports that some fence posts are leaning & will need shoring up. Well, that gives us a site to locate rocks now, doesn't it? The ones we'll need are a mite too heavy for the children to pick up, but the rest of us can handle that. I'm getting nervous about neighbors coming for a meal & perhaps some stone throwing & heaving will take some of nervous energy, not to mention anger, out of me.

    Sam let us know before supper that he'd finalized or thought he had, a plan to deal with Isabelle & that he wanted to discuss it with us briefly once the kids were in bed. But before that happened, he said he thought, (big wink), that Izzy was perhaps right in one thing - perhaps she DID need a room of her own. Did we have a space, perhaps an extra large, empty closet or something similar that could be converted? Oh & not to worry; she'd not have to be spending much time in it anyway, so appearances weren't important. Well that certainly had my curiosity up. let me tell you.

    Thankfully, the rest of the day passed quickly enough. The children were well worn out with hauling rocks out of part of the field Drew ploughed yesterday. We're all going to work at that tomorrow; the kids can get the smaller ones, the size of a fist or less while we wrestle with larger ones. Drew managed another 50 or so acres today - a fine sight to see all that freshly turned earth. Not so fine to think it all has to be gone over, visually anyway, seeded & at least until the plants get a good start, weeded. A 50 acre parcel used to strike me as smallish but when I now think it has to be planted weeded & harvested by hand it looms large. Oh well, that's not for a time yet. Drew says it's weeks before we can put in many of the real crops, although legumes come soon.

    Supper was leftovers, clearing out the cupboards & such & dishes were easy. We're all so tired, we're heaping everything on to one plate or into a single bowl & simply getting refills as needed. The kids weren't due for baths tonight - I've got to mention tomorrow that we should perhaps place half the kids on alternating nights or something like that. The nights we do decide to bathe them, it seems we’re hauling & heating water forever. It will be nice this summer when we can simply take them swimming & spare the soap some!

    So we all sat, once the ids were down for the night, to discuss the matter of Izzy again. Sam is brilliant,. I don’t think I've ever mentioned that! Oh he may be a board certified whatever, but he's not lacking in common sense either. He started by admitting that while standard approaches work for most kids, some are tougher nuts to crack & Isabelle has a hull made of titanium. He had listed her complaints once she was sent to her room. By the way, she stayed there between spells of work!

    She wants her own room; well now she has one. It's a closet right off of Sam & Maxine's room. It doesn't open into their room but there's a number of very squeaky & LOUD boards right there, so there’s no way she can sneak out. It has a window, a tiny one that a mouse couldn't get through. The walls were papered once, Lord knows how many years ago. Once we had it tidied up & clean, he had us place in it a small bed, a night table & small chest of drawers & a chair. There's a wide board we placed along the wall beside her bed she can pull out to use to write on when necessary. That's her room. She has what I've just listed & her bear.

    She hates being treated like a baby? Not a problem. She's going to be eight soon & is a good size. Sam figures she's old enough & big enough to take on some real work - hauling buckets of water, carrying slops, mucking stalls, peeling vegetables once we have fresh ones, doing laundry as long as the items aren't too big & helping Cindy & Louise with some of the heavier pushing & shoving of furniture. She can groom the ponies & will twice a day, every day.

    Mark is to teach her to ride as well as she thinks she already can. He explained that means for the next week or so, she'll be back on the longe line, bareback, blindfolded & with her arms crossed. She'll walk that way until she can tell Mark what leg of the horse is moving at any given time. She'll trot that way too, until she can stay on properly. Then & only then does she 'earn' a saddle. That she'll have to use without stirrups & definitely no reins. Mark says she tends to pull on the poor pony's mouth too much anyway. Once she can canter & even pop over little poles, still on a longe line, he'll let her use stirrups. Reins will take some time yet. Did I forget to mention she must learn to do her own saddling, bridling & clean hooves?

    If she's as 'old' as she thinks she is, she has no need of the other children for a time anyway. Now we're not as mean as all that, but Sam thinks with her, it's best to heavy handedly ram home the point. She's to be taught 'adult' tasks, those she can realistically handle anyway & will have more adult compnay than she can deal with. I just wonder how loing it will take before it sinks it that she's been busy digging her own grave so to speak? Not too long I hope. Morgan had trouble with the whole idea of being that 'harsh' with her. Harsh, my slightly rotund butt! He hasn't seen that child at her worst. She always saves her sweet side for uncle Morgan. Well, hopefully he'll see her at less than her best. Andy was a little hard to convince too; but we ruged him to play along with us. This definitely needs a united approach. We reminded him that we simply can't afford to take chances & we can't afford to risk the childrens' health & well being. Although I loathe the phrase, this action is truly 'for the sake of the child'.

    So, we dealt with what is still a minor problem but could soon escalate. We moved rocks & gruubed weed roots. We stopped & watched a great, hge flock of geese heading up towards Canada - wonder how they're making out up there? Throughout the day we laughed, spoke, some no doubt cried a few private tears, we cursed some of the work, praised kids, animals & each other & simply got about the business of getting on with life.

    That's still ahrd to do. I think now there's a part of me that will always be frightened or nervous, worried amybe. I'm not sure what it is, but it's like a hard knot deep inside me that I can't unravel. I'm luckier than most. My roots are deep here & there;s not a corner of this land I don't know like the back of my own hand. I have a good husband, even if he sometimes acts like a bit of a dip & we work well together. Our extended family group is strong, solid & well able to handle what lies ahead.

    I'm almost daring to see these next few weeks as a bit of a breather & am hoping that the hard though very useful work we're doing will contniue to give us faith that there is a future beyond tomorrow or next week. We have a younger generation coming along well for the most part & a couple of new ones coming along soon. MT is holding up extrememly well & I'm willing to bet she'll get another 10 good years out of life. I pray that is so, for her quiet strength & deep faith are what I fall on when I'm in despair. She is such a comfort to all, even if she's not aware of it.

    Now I'd best get myself to bed. There are loads of rocks waiting my attention tomorrow, Tropical Storm Isabelle looms on the horizon & I want to think through my plans for town.
    More of my thoughts on flu/health matters and the latest news can be found at [url=]The Laboratory[/url].

  14. #174
    Join Date
    May 2001
    Kingston, Ontario, Canada

    evening, 24/04/03

    A stormy day today on many fronts, not least of all the weather! I suppose I should start with the morning, which brought several storm fronts of a human kind. We got up at the regular five thirty to a very mild morning. I expected we might be lucky enough to be in tee shirts by noon. The kids are getting fast with their morning chores; I'm pretty sure a few of them are up before the alarms go off anyway because by six, they've usually seen to the chickens, collected any stray laundry, looked at the horses in the corral, (Mark checks them anyway of course), brought in more wood & water for the kitchen & have done last minute table setting.

    By six we're generally sitting down to breakfast. Did anyone mention that one of the adults takes it in turns to get up at five? That enables us to get the fire burning well, water heating & any cooked breakfast started before everyone else comes down. By six thirty we've eaten & the kids are doing dishes & cleaning the kitchen, supervised by Louise, Cindy or mom, when she's not taking some time to pray. Mark, Annette & increasingly the others are out harnessing the horses for the day's work & these days, Drew is making sure the tractor is fueled up & the plough ready to roll. By the way, he says we have more than enough fuel to finish the ploughing & perhaps enough for further mechanized work later. Jean & Sarah usually are making sure the cattle & dogs are fed & if the cattle & horses need to be moved to a different field, they handle that. Drew is alternating the animals between the two home pastures, to give the grass the best start he can. So far, it seems to be off to a good start.

    By seven or thereabouts, the REAL work starts for the day. Drew was out ploughing - he did one of the larger back fields today; one where cattle corn will be planted. Today, Tom, Sam, Joe & Jake did most of the home garden ploughing. The five acres we'd planned for the 'kitchen garden' has been ploughed once & one has of course been planted in potatoes. The other acres were gone over again today & the kids as well as the remaining adults scrambled to remove rocks & weed roots. Lordie, this land has been farmed for decades but it keeps shoving up new rocks every year. Drew swears it's as bad as some New England farms! Max, Sarah & finally Jean & Morgan moved the rocks out to the back fence lines, or as many as they could. There are piles of rocks, which still need moving. Sarah is delighted - she says the effort involved will keep the dogs well exercised & quieter.

    Cindy & Louise went through two of the freezers again; they're a little nervous about some of the meat. Just as well we need lots of energy these days - those two are piling the meat on our plates. I wish we had anything other than beef & pork though. What I wouldn't do for fish or chicken. The men have promised us a feed of fish on Sunday - official seasons be damned. Catfish, maybe some bass if they're lucky & other assorted panfish. I think I'd eat anything other than white or red meat these days.

    We've about used up the frozen vegetables, so we'll be having canned ones from now on. I hope the women have been poring over recipe books. I've never been that fond of canned vegetables, always find them a bit mushy. Noreen's ARE better than mine are though & Maxine's better yet. Wish we had some of hers. I plan, in a few weeks, to go out & get some fresh greens. Morgan has found some old panes of glass, obviously used as cold frames at some point & he's promised me a cold frame within a few days. I'm dying to start some lettuce. A salad of even plain lettuce leaves would be simply wonderful right now. I'll add some dandelions though & what I wouldn't give for some fiddlehead ferns.

    Isabelle is in a right royal snit today - serves her right as far as we're all concerned. Initially she looked rather pleased when Sam announced she'd have her own room. She was less pleased when she saw it, whining that it was too small, too far away from the other kids, whine, whine whine. She turned absolutely sulky when told she would now be treated as somewhat more than a child would. Oh she had all sorts of ideas I imagine as to what that meant. The reality was far less to her liking, let me assure you! She threw an absolute fit & Sam calmly mentioned that grownups kept a grip on their temper. If she couldn't behave reasonably, she could go straight to bed after supper - no doubt extra sleep would help make up for the harder work.

    Oh the women were more than happy to keep her busy today. She started by rewashing the clothing that had been knocked over yesterday. Lucky for her it was mainly washcloths, kitchen rags & socks! She found that rough enough. They may be small items, but there were lots of them. She can thank her lucky stars she didn't have water to haul as well to do the washing & rinsing.

    She set the table, hauled enough water to do most of the dishes & housework & by the time she went to bed, was too worn out to maintain the attitude. I almost felt sorry for her; she was almost asleep over her plate & certainly didn't have any time to play, but she DID decide she was too grown up for baby stuff. I wonder how long she'll last. Mom told me not to buy the pride. The kid is hurting, probably badly but she needs to learn - probably the hard way, to get past the misplaced pride & idea that the world revolves around her & her alone. It's still hard to see although I can't help thinking that once that energy, determination & sheer guts are properly harnessed, she could turn into quite a woman.

    Well that was a short lived storm front & hopefully will dwindle to a few thunderclaps & sudden showers. Noreen's was a bit more complicated than that. I had no idea she was that mad at Drew & I suspect a lot of the anger is simply misplaced grief, worry & all those other nasty things we're facing. Oh I quite agree with her, but throwing such a fit was completely unexpected. Mind you perhaps Drew needed the shock. What happened was after we dealt with Isabelle, Noreen stood up, rather defiantly & told us she hadn't been asking to go to town; she'd been TELLING us her plans. Most seemed surprised, not having taken it any other way, but Drew's face tightened & even Tom looked like he had objections. I kicked him under the table - after all our years together, he knew what that meant. I piped up at that point, 'reminding' Tom & the others that I too was going to town shortly & probably staying a few days... and when did we all think the best time would be for Noreen & I to plan our trip.

    Men never learn, I swear. Drew tried to object yet again & this time a few utensils went sailing & Noreen finally stormed out, slamming the door so loudly, she splintered the latch! That shocked everyone & Sam looked at Drew & asked what on earth his objection really was? It comes down to worry about her safety; nothing new for any of us there & we took turns reminding him that she was a capable, grown woman who needed to make her own decisions. She wasn't proposing foolishness & God only knows when we'll have time for many more such excursions this spring.

    He finally, very reluctantly agreed & I went out to find Noreen to 'warn' her. I found her furiously pitching filthy bedding out behind the barn, moving a pile from one place to another. I think she'll still be a while calming down & I'm convinced something else is on her mind; something other than Drew, Izzy... maybe the whole situation we’re in is finally catching up to her. She's been too busy up until now trying to teach us all what we need to know about running the house, working the farm - she's been very patient & possibly she was due to snap a bit.

    I empathize. At this point, I feel as though I have next to no control over my own life, the direction it's going in, day to day events normally under my domain. Every time I think I might snatch 15 or 20 minutes to BREATHE, something else comes up. I get those days too when I find myself resentful of some of the others. The grass is greener syndrome, I think. THEIR jobs look to be more interesting! Oh they're just as dirty, hard & time consuming as anything I'm doing. It's just that a change is good for the soul once in a while. I'm tempted to, once I return from town, ask to help Jean with the cattle or even Sarah with the dogs for a few days. I'll be a while before I can do much work in the herb garden & I've done so much reading & studying, I'm having trouble absorbing anything else.

    You know, as fatigued as we all are at the end of a day's work, we must resume our nightly meetings, even if they're short. It's increasingly clear to me that while work certainly helps us deal with the feelings of frustration & helplessness we've had to cope with for months now, it's not enough. This is all so very new to us all, even Noreen & Drew & we must find ways, individually & as a family to unwind. We can find hobbies as individuals, games we can play together & certainly I think we should stick to Sundays off as much as possible. Now if we wake to a rainy Saturday or Monday looks to be coming up bad, perhaps we can change that, but I'm not crazy about that idea. I'd rather know I could count on a certain day, plan for & around it as needed. If the weather interferes with plans for outdoor activities, there are plenty of alternatives & once summer arrives, a bit of rain need not keep any of the children indoors.

    Mark is looking tired today. He wasn't sure if he should give the others their daily lessons before tackling Isabelle or do it the other way. I advised him to work with the others first in case he became so irritated with Izzy that his temper ran short! He did just that & I peeped out a few times when he finally got around to working with Isabelle. He spent almost an hour simply getting her to saddle & bridle the pony correctly. The little sneak! It's not as if she can't, it's that she WON'T. We've all noticed that with her in relation to chores. But, it's her time to waste & some time spent now, correcting her behavior will hopefully pay off in the future. Louise told me she ran into the same thing with her over laundry. Instead of scrub out simple dirt, she tried to get away with simply swishing the socks around. Louise let her do a load that way, inspected it, then told Izzy it simply wouldn't do - she'd have to do it over again. Oh she'll sleep tonight!

    Speaking of Louise - and Cindy. They're both getting close to the final months & are finding the days long & tiring, especially Cindy. I need to beg, borrow or steal on obstetrical stethoscope. I'm more than half convinced she has twins in there. I questioned both her & Joe quite closely about when they think she became pregnant. She's always been very regular & had circled her start dates on the calendar. She still had her small purse calendar & unless she was off by a whole month, hardly likely, she's either got a huge baby or twins. Each situation has its own concerns & both make me nervous. She's built well for childbirth, but a large baby can still be a problem & twins can be a nightmare under the wrong circumstances. If I do become convinced she has twins, I'm going to try & convince the doctor or the obstetrical nurse to be ready to come over when she goes into labour. I can send Mark over on horseback & if he gets over there quickly enough, he can ride back more slowly. Few babies arrive very quickly anyhow; there would be lots of time.

    I’ve spoken to both of the girls about putting them & their husbands through a home version of prenatal education. All are getting increasingly nervous & some practical information; some practice of the necessary skills might help them feel a bit more in control. I don't know how they feel about medication, people around or any of these sorts of issues & it won't hurt to find out well before any of us need to know.

    I walked out after supper, headed to the horse barn to visit the foals. With such heavy rain, Mark decided to bring them in for the night. It is a cold, oily feeling rain. I surprised Morgan out there, but was I glad I did! He's working on 2 of the loveliest cradles you can imagine, one for each of the women. Oh they'll be lovely! He had Annette, (the sneak!), help him draw what he had envisioned & they added measurements. It's not so much the cradles themselves as the carving he plans on doing on the foot & headboards. I won't spoil the surprise by discussing it here - not yet, but it will be special. I want to talk to the others about a "baby" shower for the expecting couples. Well, why not? Sarah sews, Morgan is preparing the cradles & we can all come up with appropriate gifts - we have enough time. That will be a wonderful mid-summer surprise.

    I had a bit of real work to do today - just the right kind of job to use as a teaching aid with the kids. Timmy dropped a rock on Sammy's finger resulting in some real howling - more out of surprise than hurt, I think. Ashley came racing into the kitchen to tell me & assured me that his finger: "Wasn't broke off & wasn't bleeding more than a teeny bit!". She seemed almost disappointed; kids love blood as long as it's not their own. I grabbed my field first aid kit & walked back to the field where a cluster of kids made it clear where Sammy was. You'd have had to have been deaf not to hear him anyway!

    I could see right away that although he was hurting, he wasn't HURT; I'm sure you understand the difference. I asked the kids to quietly step back, after indicating to the adults that we had no real problem here. I sent Jared back to the house for a half bucket of cold water & asked Sammy if I could see his finger. He whimpered a bit, being a bit worried about what Grandma Anne was going to do to him. Amputation was not in the cards! It was bruising already & swelling a bit & 1 corner of the rock had given him a small cut. Lots of teaching opportunities there!

    I find the best way of dealing with these things at that age is to act impressed. I let my eyes grow wide so that Sammy could see & said: "Cool!", when he showed me his finger. He looked puzzled at that & I said I thought it was going to turn some really neat colors over the next few days - blue, purple & maybe even green & yellow. That resulted in a question from Carol - might it turn orange? Nope, I solemnly answered, it wasn't gonna get THAT cool & sorry Sammy, no stripes or spots. That got a little giggle from him. I asked him how much it hurt & he said now that I was here, it wasn't that bad. I wish it were always that easy!

    I asked him to try & wiggle it, very slowly just to make sure no real damage had been done. No, there didn't seem to be although it will be hard for him to move it with the swelling. Luckily it's his left hand. I asked the others what they thought I needed to do to help his finger heal up. Sammy suggested maybe we should clean it "to prevent grerms". Good answer, if badly pronounced. I allowed that he was right & added that most of the ouch would come from the swelling. I was able to tell the kids, simply, what causes swelling & how our best bet was to soak it in the cold water Jared had by then brought back to us. I added a bit of disinfectant, telling Sammy it would take care of the cleaning without it needing to be rubbed & it wouldn't hurt a bit. It didn't. While his finger soaked, we spoke of first aid. It will happen that someone gets hurt without an adult around & I want to be sure the kids are clear on what's really urgent as opposed to painful. At that age, they often mistake pain & a bit of blood for deadly serious when often; it's other things that are more frightening to adults.

    After a few minutes I patted his finger dry & had another look. He's lucky, the rock struck a glancing blow & the swelling is minor. I strapped his finger to the two others beside it, only to keep it still for a day or so & told him he'd have to spend the rest of the day 'supervising'. I warned the kids how easy it was for accidents to happen & to try & be careful when lifting heavy things near others. Poor Timmy, he thought I was angry with him & burst into tears, but I pointed out that sometimes, things just happen - no matter how careful we are. They're all still feeling Greg's death & I think they worry about how WE will react to accidents & injuries. We spoke of safety again for a few minutes, then I sent them back to work & brought Sammy in for a drink before sending him back out to work. He can still do a fair bit with one hand & I suggested he could always haul out weed roots.

    It wasn't that bad a day after all, a lot got done & after supper, we did sit together & enjoy a cup of tea before heading off to clean up & prepare for bed. I never thought I'd be in bed so early regularly & sleep so well, but there we are. We're working hard & at least I wake up feeling refreshed. Maxine knocked on our bedroom door just after the group tea party said she simply needed a hug - did I think she was too old. Of course not & Tom found an excuse to leave - something about visiting the outhouse. Poor Max. I gave her a hug & she promptly burst into tears & wept & wept as if she'd never be able to stop. She certainly needed to do that & nobody begrudges her the emotions. She finally did stop & said she hated hurting like this - that she felt as though there was a raw, gaping hole where her heart had been. In a way I was glad to hear that. She's been so numb for so long & I was beginning to be concerned. What could I say to the poor girl? Grief has no easy answers, no quick solutions & all you can do is weep with a person, hold them wipe their tears & pray they eventually find comfort.

    She mentioned she now felt desperate to speak of Greg; she feared that if she didn't, she'd begin to forget some of his traits, his funny little quirks & actions & did I think anyone would really mind if she mentioned him now & then? Well of course not! We've all been holding our tongues so as not to inadvertently cause hurt but it would be a relief, part of the healing for most of us to speak of him. He was a dear boy & I for one miss him so much. I reminded Max that the women, on a trip to town had brought back for her & Sam that lovely leather bound album to serve as a memory book. Perhaps it was time she began to fill it. That brought a fresh spate of scalding tears, but healing ones I think. She answered that yes, it was perhaps time that she & Sam wrote some of their memories down before time faded them to pale shadows.

    I'm left with a thought now that Max has joined Sam in bed & I'm ready to turn out the lights. I know Max & Sam have only wallet photos of the children right now whereas back at home, in some closet, I have all sorts of photos of the grandchildren. When I take my trip, I'm going to make a stop at home for a few hours & gather up those I have of Greg. I think at some point - soon, we need to go home & think of bringing back some of the things we left behind when we moved over. We simply couldn't bring more than absolute essentials & now it's time to bring back to Drew's the visible reminders of our former life. I'd hate to lose all these things in a fire or flood or something similar.

    But now, it's really time for me to get some sleep. I'm glad I don’t have early duty as that extra half-hour makes all the difference some days.
    More of my thoughts on flu/health matters and the latest news can be found at [url=]The Laboratory[/url].

  15. #175
    Join Date
    May 2001
    Kingston, Ontario, Canada

    after lunch, 25/04/03

    Anne told me this morning she barely mentioned yesterday's weather, except in passing at the beginning of the entry she wrote. Rain it did. For a day that started mild & sunny, it ended blustery & very wet. We even heard a few thunderclaps, surprising as I thought it might be just a bit too cold for that. I was hoping for late April showers. Instead, I saw buckets of water pouring down. On top of the heavy snow load we had this winter, that was NOT what anyone wanted to see but there you go, spring is spring & you can't mail order rain when needed. You simply have to take it when you get it. I asked Drew about it & he said this early in the spring, the more water that could be locked into the ground, the more water upstream in the watershed, the better. Once seeds are in & actively growing, warmth & water will give them the best start possible. If it gets dry after that, as long as there's no period of protracted drought, Drew figures crops will do well; God willing. He reminded me that strains of crops grown here have been breed & adapted for local conditions. He's right of course & I felt a bit too silly to have to be reminded of that.

    We always keep in mind that weather might work against us & have alternate plans for such hours or days. I always have lesson plans drawn up ahead of time for the kids & all the young ones put in a few hours of reading, writing & arithmetic this morning. I think I may ask some of the adults to write them short simple stories or pieces of non-fiction to read - it's not a bad way of broadening their horizons. As a writing task, today I assigned them a piece relating to life here - what is their least favorite chore & why. I told them I wanted at least TWO reasons why they didn't like any particular job & that three would be better. Annette is currently reading European history during the Dark Ages. There's lots of good material there. She's learning some of the machinations of politicians - they haven't changed much have they? She's learning about the daily life of your average peasant - brutal & life expectancy & all that wonderful stuff. Anne is helping her learn about what they ate, how they treated illness & MT, our resident religious historical is explaining the importance of the Church to people back then. I want to take Annette from that to Middle Eastern history - the Byzantine Empire & all its riches. Mark has expressed interest in that time period as well & I'm hoping I have sufficient material for them. Alex & Morgan are reading together, aloud actually; a historical account of the settling of the Midwest. Why not? That's where we live & I want them, once they've finished the book I've assigned them, to read a few more on the same topic, then write me some essays. I want their honest opinion of the wisdom of opening the west in the manner in which it was opened & then, (although they don't know it yet), they're going to write a contrary opinion piece. That should get them both thinking. I want Morgan to, with Alex' help, to put together plans for a 12 foot cabin. They can look at how it was done, but I want them to put their heads together, have a look at local, natural resources then & see if they can figure out improvements to basic designs. I doubt they'll come up with anything terribly original, but the work involved, the thinking, will be good for both of them. Mark also has been assigned a 10-page essay on animals in farms here. I want him to compare the benefits & disadvantages of oxen versus horses & he should certainly do a decent job on that. Morgan is to write for me a similar piece on irrigation, including properly drawn plans for irrigation systems incorporating local materials. Both of them groaned when I said I wanted those pieces of work done by the end of June. Oh, they'll find time!

    I'm very much enjoying my riding lessons. Mark keeps threatening to put me on the rangy little gelding with more speed than brains, but he's kidding. He has trouble with that animal himself, as the beast is full of pee & vinegar. It's spring & he's not doing any real work yet. Mark was going to take him yesterday when he brought Drew his lunch but with Jared coming along, he thought it best to ride one of the quieter mares. Both of them loved the excursion. For a lad who had nothing to say for a time, Jared has turned into quite a chatterbox. He's unbelievably curious about everything & asks some pretty tough questions. Answering them honestly at a level he can understand is not easy.

    He's full of questions about The Outbreak right now, that & why we dropped a bomb over Iraq. His questions are astute & trying to keep the answers meaningful yet at his level of understanding is not always easy. He finished his assigned reading quickly this morning & hesitantly asked me if he could try a harder book. I had him read a few pages of the third grade level chapter book he's working on now & I'm wondering just how bright he is. He reads very fluently & I think it's time to try him on tougher material. I have a simple book, which explains atoms, & atom bombs that I may turn over to him. He can easily ask any adult about words he doesn't understand & if I keep the explanation of the science simple enough, he may get it. I think he's trying to understand why the Bomb is so lethal & carries so many long-term problems.

    Sarah had a difficult day today - we had to put down two of the dogs. For whatever reason, two of them woke up from a nap & started a terrific fight. Alex almost leaped in to try & separate them & luckily, Joe was there & had the wit to hold the boy back. He would have been torn apart. Whatever these two dogs were upset about, they were damned serious for by the time we managed to stop them by flinging buckets of water on them, they were both badly torn up. One had a snapped foreleg & Jean was loath to try & repair it. She couldn't guarantee results & didn't feel she had the proper equipment. The other dog had huge gaping holes in its throat & Jean was quite sure a major blood vessel had been nicked. We could have simply let the poor beast pass on, but Drew can't stand to see any animal in shock & pain & he quickly ushered everyone out of the barn save Sarah & Jean & took care of what needed doing. We helped Sarah bury the dogs at the back edge of the little wood. She's pretty upset as one in particular was a favorite of her father's. That brings us down to eleven dogs now, still too many really, but save for one young male, all are bitches so if need be, we can breed up a new litter as replacements. That, hopefully, won't be necessary for quite some time.

    Anne started the expectant parents on their prenatal program today, beginning with a simple explanation of how babies develop. She invited anyone interested to join in & to my surprise, almost everybody chose to do just that - even the kids. She didn't cover any sensitive material, just spoke of how the fertilized egg develops over time. The kids loved the photos & diagrams she produced from some of her old texts. It seems Izzy thought a baby started immediately looking like a full term baby, just in miniature. She expressed surprise at how like baby reptiles human embryos look like. Anne will continue tomorrow after supper, finishing off her 'lecture' about fetal development, then beginning to discuss normal labor & all its permutations. I'll skip that part, been there & done that, as a father of course!

    Morgan brought me to the barn & showed me what's he's accomplished so far with the cradles. It brought tears to my eyes & I'm sorry he never became a father. There's love in every bit of that wood & I think the women are going to try & outdo him when they sew the bedding for the cradles. I'm really starting to look forward to this - not the anxiety when women are laboring & certainly not the three am cries, but the pure joy of a new infant announcing its arrival in weak cries. I've already got the champagne bottles tucked away!

    I'll have to spend time helping the men do a good cleaning of the rooms the babies will use. Jake & Louise have a walk-in closet off their bedroom they're converting into a nursery & Joe/Cindy have a small room right next to theirs that Drew has told them to go ahead & cut a door through. I'll have to try & find a door for them - in town & help them get that work done. Sarah is going to sew what she calls "Remembory Quilts". Many of the squares will be plain cloth & as the babies grow, she'll replace those plain ones with story panels - what a grand notion!

    Noreen & Anne are happily planning their trip to town. Anne is writing down questions she wants to ask the staff at the clinic & writing notes on things she's picked up in her reading that might come in handy for them. I hope she can talk them into coming out when Cindy goes into labor. I'd love to think of an easy way we could get those 2 to town to have a pre-natal checkup. Anne told me she's stopping at our place for photos - great idea & I'd like to go back as well soon; there are some things there I'd love to bring here as for now, I can't see us leaving.

    Noreen has a list of stores, some I'm not that familiar with that she wants to visit as well as a few restaurants. I'm hopeful she can find canning stuff & sure hope she can find a load of pickling salt. I've asked her to scrounge up all the Ziploc type bags she can find. If we can't find jars for canning - we can use those. If she does find jars, lids & seals, she'll wrap them in sheets or towels & will have to come home slowly, keeping a good grip on the dogs. With both she & Anne going, Sarah is going to let them use 4 dogs & Morgan will try & adapt one of the wagons to carry a delicate load.

    I don't think anyone mentioned Annette's trip to the 'mailbox' earlier. To her surprise, the two teenaged girls from that farm strolled up. I don't think they're at all Annette's cup of tea. She was out there almost an hour talking to them & even looking from over here, it was easy to see she wasn't very comfortable with whatever she was seeing or hearing. It seems the one girl Mark thought was a bit tubby is in fact pregnant! She's about a month behind our two & not a bit ashamed or slow to speak of it. Her boyfriend died of smallpox, but she didn't seem terribly affected by it. As Annette said, she just shrugged & said the guy was a "loser" anyway. Annette bluntly asked her if she was such a loser, why she'd slept with him. That's generally not been Annette's style, but her tolerance for nonsense has dropped considerably since Christmas. It seems he may have been a loser, but he was "way cool" or at least the girl thought so at the time.

    She's not the least concerned about having the baby. "Mom can look after it; "babies are so like, booooring". I wonder what 'mom' feels about that. The girls wanted to know about Alex & Mark. They think those two are "hot". They blushed something awful when Annette announced that. We all had a good laugh of a sort. Frankly, we found that rather bizarre considering they haven't seen the boys close up. Annette seemed furious, not a case of jealousy but complete & utter indignation at how these girls seem so totally clueless.

    Annette had begun by politely greeting them & introducing herself, asking who & how they were & the usual sort of thing. They were pretty casual she found no doubt in a staged sort of way. They were dressed to the nines, or what passes for that among teens. Or should that be, what passed for it before The Outbreak. Their hair was curled; they were heavily made up & dressed in very tight clothing totally unsuited to farm life or work. Annette said they looked at what she had on, (old jeans & a lumberjack shirt) & raising an eyebrow, smirked - asking her if that was fashionable around here.

    Boy, there's not much that can be bitchier than a pair of teen-aged girls, especially when they have absolutely no reason to be that way save perhaps too much time on their hands. Annette waved off that question by saying there was no point in getting good clothes dirty in the mud in April. The girls mentioned something about not seeing too much of Annette or the boys save when they were rushing back & forth to the barn, (the corral is hidden behind the barn) & asked what they spent their time doing. Annette answered briefly, telling those two she & Mark trained the horses, Mark was teaching her to ride & together they were teaching the younger kids. She also mentioned working the horses for harness & said that Alex spent much of his time getting on with farming.

    The teens expressed some amazement that we'd taken on so much work - wasn't it rather early to be planting? Annette agreed but added that land still needed to be prepared for seeds. She mentioned that early weeding needed doing & in any case there was much other work to be done - laundry, firewood to be hauled as well as water; the usual sorts of things. The pair rather loftily announced that the adults did all of that & that their mother was speaking of perhaps planting up to two(!) acres in vegetables later on.

    Good Lord almighty! It doesn't sound to me as though they’ve read anything Drew has sent over or if they have, there’s a serious disconnect between reality & wishing. The girls did indicate their parents were sure that by fall, everything would be "over"; that the government would be fully reconstituted, factories opened planes flying & everything back to normal. Annette just couldn't grasp what she was hearing. She says she stood there jaw dropping for a time, then asked the girls how this was all supposed to happen when people were still getting sick, the population was almost at 15% of what it formerly was & the last we'd heard, most of Congress was dead or had simply not been heard from? The girls had no answers for that.

    Annette didn't take up much more of their time. She was too anxious to come home & speak with us; mad & worried at the same time. We're all rather stunned & Drew is STILL sputtering. None of what they said makes any sense in the light of reality. One thing I wish Annette had asked - have they not been getting any news at all? Have they not listened to local radio? I suspect the girls may be cruising the dial looking for pop tunes, but they'll not find anything like that any time soon.

    It appears to me as though the adults are doing all the work & have not gotten a firm grip on their teens, the children or many other aspects of their lives. Dinner on Sunday should be VERY interesting. I feel a sense of foreboding though; this is not at all what any of us had anticipated from our nearest neighbors. Sure, we worried about it, but they certainly talked a good game in their initial notes to us. Now it seems, it may have all been talk & their real thoughts may center on some bizarre fantasy involving rescue. It makes me wonder just how "strange" the neighbors THEY'VE complained about really are. Strange may simply imply a work ethic & some actual labor going on. Too bizarre.

    I'm not sure what to make of all of this & no one else is either. The boys are now both looking for excuses to NOT be here for dinner Sunday but sorry guys, you'll have to cope. "hot" indeed. I almost killed myself trying not to laugh. Mind you, if those two young darlings think they can saunter over here whenever they wish & flirt with those two, they'll find they get short shrift. We simply have no time for that sort of nonsense. They certainly don't sound like Mark or Alex' type either!

    Drew, between such distractions, spent the day coping his rough ploughing & planting notes into his yearly garden journal. He's doing it up as I am this journal, on loose-leaf in a binder. He tells me assuming it doesn't keep raining, he'll be able to get soy in a few weeks. It's early & he's really crossing his fingers, but has the luxury of a fair bit of extra seed tucked away. The rain gave him the opportunity to take a good look at the tractor & attachments this afternoon. He's very pleased. The engines & machinery are holding up well & he simply tightened a few things & oiled everything. He gave Joe a first hand look at what's 'under the hood' & showed him the things that typically break down & can easily be repaired.

    Jake spent time this afternoon clearing away some odd corners of the attic with the children. They found some old toys & games, some must be close to 100 years old & some very vintage clothing in old trunks & suitcases. They're simply fascinated & Noreen has promised them that once these things are cleaned & aired & examined, they can have a good look at them & in the case of the games & toys, use them. There's actually quite a bit of room up there under the eaves of the original house & various additions. Once Jake had a good look, Sam & Max went up there as well to help him remove junk & as much as we're careful to not throw out anything potentially useful, there is an awful lot of junk up there. Jake said it was getting close to becoming a firetrap in spots. Anyway, they brought down a lot of stuff - old mouse bitten mattresses, broken bed frames - Morgan wants the wood from some of those, furniture beyond repair that will split up nicely for kindling & old, rotting curtains. There was also no shortage of old, rusted metal bits of various sorts & old footwear that almost fell apart when touched.

    What was fun to find though was two trunks of old books & magazines. I had Sam take THAT find straight to my room - there's my entertainment for the next little while. Seriously, I want to check for things useful for teaching the kids. Drew's family might have tucked in personal journals or something similar in there as well & I didn't want the kids rummaging through the trunks & perhaps ripping up something of that sort.

    We did find a flag carefully folded up in newspaper, a nice, big American flag. Now, all we need is a flagpole & we're in business. It would do my heart good to see a flag flying out here during the day & why not? All in all, we've kept busy in spite of the rain & in the few hours remaining until supper, I plan to start going through the first of the two trunks & see what sorts of old treasures I can find. I hope there are old mail order catalogues, even one or two would be great. Those were great fun when I was a child & I could certainly use them with the children.

    I'd like to try & catch a radio broadcast or two as well. There's been little new mentioned the last few days & I'm desperate for some real news of outside events. I'm hoping too there will be some word from the mayor about some sort of town or community meeting. He had promised us something of the sort before spring planting season got underway & we're almost at that point. It really needs to happen within the next week or two.

    So, I think I'll go grab myself a hot chocolate - that stuff is addictive & head up to my room. MT said something about a nap & I'm going to suggest to Cindy that she take one - she's looking exhausted today.
    More of my thoughts on flu/health matters and the latest news can be found at [url=]The Laboratory[/url].

  16. #176
    Join Date
    May 2001
    Kingston, Ontario, Canada

    evening, 25/04/03

    This is Andy writing the entry for both Joe & I covering what we heard & saw, what we did & what we felt during our few weeks in town helping dispose of the bodies lying everywhere. Joe & I were both going to write separate entries, but we worked together on the same team - pretty much for support & we agreed it only needed saying once. I told Joe he should read this after I'm finished & before I hand it over to dad to put in the book - in case I've missed anything Joe thinks was important.

    Dad tells me our departure was well enough noted; fair enough. It felt strange to be surrounded by so many strangers & for a week or so, I seriously worried about getting smallpox - not from the bodies as much as those we were working with. I know, that makes no sense but none of this stinking situation makes any sense, does it?

    The mayor was glad to see us & made a point of greeting us pesonally as we later saw he does with every volunteer. He put us in the same bunk room & introduced us to the at the time six wonderful people who were doing our cooking, cleaning & trying their damndest to keep us comfortable & as happy as possible. Let me tell you, that sure can't be easy under the circumstances & really, the best they could do was keep us fed & warm, clean & dry & try to keep us sane. I can't say enough about the minister. It seemed whenever he was really needed, he was just... THERE!

    The mayor introduced himself to us, introduced us to the City hall staff then took our names, assigned us our bunk area & introduced us to our team leader who then introduced us to the rest of our team. The teams consist of 7 or 8 people; a hose drawn wagon, lots of plastic, gloves & as much air freshener as we need. There are other things, but you get the idea. It works like this - the town is divided into areas. Each team is assigned an area & works until it's cleared. We also had lots of of spray paint, different colors for different messages. Sarah told me she explained that, so I won't repeat it here. Let's just say I don;t cvare if I never smell the damned stuff again.

    I was lucky with my team. As well as Joe, I had a butcher, (may sound strange, but he was well able to deal with what we found), a banker, 2 store clerks a former missionary now working or WAS working at the feed store & our team leader, a funeral home worker from before. All were my age or older, most have no families left although two of the men did, in one case a wife who's also doing this work & one has an older son about 17 or so.

    We'd get up with the dawn, eat a quick & light breakfast, pack drinks & spare clothes, then take off. Our team leader always had a map of our areas & we'd try to start at the point furthest from the quarry. At each house we'd knowck - just in case someone WAS still alive & if we were answered, we'd dimply state who we were & why we were there. If they had dead that they'd buried, we'd very politely ask where & how & try to make sure the body or bodies were safely buried. That is; that they were buried deeply enough to avoid scavengers. In some cases, we were asked to remove the bodies to be disposed of at the quarry. The former missionary always offered to say a prayer over whatever graves were there & was usually raken up on that. Often, he ran a few homes behind us.

    In houses which were uninhabited, we'd start in the attic as it's surprising how many people crawled up into such spaces to die. We'd work our way down the stairs through each floor & if possible, wrap the bodies up. If there was plastic in the houses, traps & such we'd use that to save ours. We'd carry out the bodies, that usually took four of us & while we'd carry some out, the others would find & wrap others. We'd also try to find identification - with some that was easy, with others impossible. We'd note how many bodies were in each location & if possible, the sex & approximate age.

    Once our wagons were full, we'd head off to the quarry & place them there. I say place but it'r more accurate to say "dump". It WAS a case of dumping. We drive to the edge & push out the bodies. There are 2 teams down below doing theie level best to place flammables among the bodies & at the end of the day a burning team stays to do that nasty bit of work. I had to do that a few nights & in some ways, it's wose than collecting the dead. I can't describe the smell, but it will stay with me the rest of my life. No one ate much while I was there & I'm still not able to eat a proper meal. Joe can now, but only in the past day or so.

    That was our work, getting up day after day, setting out & doing what had to be done. Once you got through the first few days, it almost became routine. Boy, it sure helped to have other things to think about though. I kept focusing on the farm & trying to guess what everyone was doing on any given day. Hard to stay upbeat though. If you could get up in the morning & follow some kind of ritual to prepare, you could do okay. Me, I'd read the 23rd psalm, always one of my favorite passges although I don't call myself religious. At breakfast, someone, usually a solid church member, would stand up & give us a short, inspirational reading. I felt a little silly listening to those at first, but you know? It got to be something I looked forward to. I even found myself asking for references later & there are a few passages I'd love to talk over with grandmother.

    Sometimes it got to be really tough, especially finding babies & very little children. Some times I had to walk out of a place & puke or just get a grip on myself; I know Joe did as well. You know, I got to be able to handle finding babies & really little ones dead of smallpox., What I NEVER got used to was finding those who obviously hadn't been sick. Some died of cold or starvation & others were consumed by family pets who had no other source of food. THAT was a miserable thing to have to see & cope with.

    I've cried a lot in my life but never as much as in the past three weeks. I didn't see a single person on my team NOT cry at least a half dozen times. God almighty, I can't imagine the cities! We have a smallish town & many weren't here. Many fled I think & some were gone for the holidays as many homes were empty & appeared to have been empty since before The Outbreak. In the time Joe & I worked, we cleared I don't know how many homes. We also did one more commercial area, a stretch along the highway that has a few homes interspaced with small office blocks & strip malls. There were people there too, but not too many except for in the one bar we had to clear. I dunno; my last instinct wouldn't be to go drink myself to feath but I doubt any of them were thinking straight & if the pain is as bad as many survivors told us, why the hell not?

    We did get the chance to speak to a lot of survivors. Some were pathetically grateful to see signs of life - healthy life. Some I don't think will make it. It's not so much that they don't have food or water or stuff like that. In many cases, I don't think they're going to be able to get past the shock. I haven't seen that many cases of 'thousand yard stare' since I watched Saving Private Ryan. Some seemed truly incapable of understanding what had happened & more importantly, what we now face. What the heck were we supposed to say or do?

    The mayor had that covered. We also had leaflets explaining in very simple words that this was the world as we know it for the immediate future. There's no rescue coming from anywhere. People are going to have to get used to the idea of making it on their own - pure & simple. It was incredibly tough to get that notion through some peoples' heads. Of course, many have had no access to media at all. They couldn't grasp how many had died, how many were yet to die & the challanges ahead. Some had this vision of an intact Washington ready to start bringing in food, water, medicine & toher supplies & they couldn't understand why no relief convoys had arrived. Arrive from where?

    I don't know how many times I pateintly ecxplained, over & over. There is no help coming. We have to do this ourselves. Some people seemed to get it, then another form of panic & shock entered their eyes. What were they supposed to do, how & with what? For those who seemed to finally get it, we also had a small pamphlet telling them to come to City Hall where there are some prepared kits of very basic garden tools - shovels, hoes & rakes. There are packets of seed available - the mayor has "seized" everything he & his staff could find & there is also some food people can have., There are instructions on how to SAFELY break into abandoned homes in order to scavenge for food. We did warn those intending to do that that it might be best to make sure there was some color of 'x' on the house - that would mean we'd been through & they wouldn't have to cope with horrible sights.

    Man, what a mess this all is. Clearing away the deasd is bad enough but the living are increasingly becoming the bigger problem. We did find many groups who are pulling together, who are determined to get through this one way or the other. With a few groups, it was 'the other' I worry about. Some looked a little past 'basic mean' & Joe is telling the mayor or was, as often as the poor man would listen, that he'd best start thinking about some kind of basic law enforcement. Things may have gone to hell in a hand basket, but it could & may get worse in terms of people taking advantage of others.

    We found a surprising number of children with no parents left alive, no parents or other adults. Some have been very resourceful. We found one house being "run" by a very smart little girl of about 10 or so. She has four other kids with her & a rifle bigger than she is tall. I don't doubt she knows how to use it. They've scavenged around their neighborhood & have loads oif canned & packaged food. She was proud to show us her cooking setup. She used a Sterno outfit & is smart enough to keep a window open. She admits food never really gets HOT, but at least it's edible. Something's going to have to be done about the surviving kids. There are more here than I'd been led to expect. That's great, it really is, but they'll need proper care, some schooling & some skills taught to them soon.

    The mayor - I wonder when he or his staff are sleeping. A few of my team mentioned they'd finish out the week on their current job, then offer to stay & help him out. The former missionary has offered to work with the minister as he's overwhelmed with work. Two of the men will stay & work as city staff in whatever capacity the mayor feels is the most important right now. That will be the tough call; so much needs doing, how do you properly prioritize?

    That orphangae that was running on the outskirts of town? It's still there but in a sadly reduced way. There remain 5 adults & 23 children last time I heard, although many of the children we & other teams located may be making their way there. The morning before we left, 6 kids straggled into City Hall, out of food, very much alive & needing help. They're still there, bedding down in yest another room but a more premanent solution will have to be found. I suppose it might be tempting to simply farm them out to adults who have no children, who want children, but there are obvious risks there too & how do you check out the adults?

    I suppose I should say a bit about town, what it's like right now. Empty & deserted is the feeling we get right now. There are several small clusters of inhabited homes, close to downtown & some closer to farms & available fields. Most homes simply look abandoned & are in fine shape. That is, windows remain intact & the buildings sound. That won't last. Some will become inhabited & some over time will show signs of not being maintained. Most shops have been looted as per the instructions the radio station broadcast. The obvious material has been taken - food, medecines, clothing & other useful supplies. I said most have been looted but they're not emptied yet. If I were the mayor, I'd try & get some of the remaining items for those who can't feed themselves.

    The roads look okay for the most part. There are the usual spring potholes & a few minor washouts, but nothing major yet. Give it a year. You know, if work crews were available to start tomorrow to clean up the usual winter messes, the job could be done in 2 weeks or less. That won't happen though & I guess we're lucky it's not worse.

    People are slowly beginning to prepare to garden, farm, whatever you want to call it. Some groups appear well organized, orthers are just getting their stuff together. I spoke to one group planning to get over to the enxt town about 7 miles east of here. That was simply a collection of supply stores, grocery store, bank, gas station & other such establishments. The rumor we've heard is no one survived there or if they did, they left & many think many supplies are available. This sort of story may be the new urban legend. "I hear in town xxxx that no one is left, that grocery store shelves are full & bags of seed are lying for the taking..." Who knows? I'm just glad we don't have to worry about that at Drew's.

    We were able to get news more easily being co-located with the radio station but incoming news has been sporadic at best & unverified. It seems people ARE starting to move but not too many are reported to be heading in this direction. I've spent time trying to figure what most who wish to move might do, but there are too many possibilities. Many might choose to try & get to warmer parts of the country. That's great in winter but poses its own hazards. As much as I hate our long, cold winters, I feel most comfortable here, probably because I know this climate, these people. Making it here is going to be tough, but no tougher than elsewhere & I'd rather take my chances here.

    Joe has just gone over this & wanted me to add the following points. He feels we're in for another big wave of illness soon & this one might send quite a few over the edge. He thinks the most dangerous time to come will be as crops grow - those who didn't or couldn't plant their own may try & steal what they see ready to harvest. He wants us to "get serious" about security at Drew's. He also said I should have mentioned the smell - how bad it was. Yeah, it was awful & is thankfully fading as bodies are disposed of properly.

    But this has been a strain to recall & write about. I could have added more details, more sad sights but it hurts to try & recall them - not that I can forget them but to write about them I have to re-live them & that is just too hard.
    More of my thoughts on flu/health matters and the latest news can be found at [url=]The Laboratory[/url].

  17. #177
    Join Date
    May 2001
    Kingston, Ontario, Canada

    evening, 25/04/03

    The rain has finally stopped - just in time for the blister on my hand to scab over nicely. I was stupid not checking the fit of those gloves better but lesson learned. The sun broke out just before noon & much of the yard is soaked right through. The women will be screaming as there's bound to be a lot of mud tracked in over the next few days. There wasn't much use working in the fields today as in some spots you can see standing water & I swear others have turned to quicksand.

    The children spent the morning doing more schoolwork & both Mark & Morgan have started on their assignments. Anne spent a few hours with our expectant couples, beginning to teach them all that weird breathing stuff for labor - glad that's no longer a concern for me. They're certainly avid students & Anne tells me it won't take much time until they know what they need to know. MT is currently sitting on the front porch or was; she's walking around from one end of it to the other right now, peering over the railing at different points. I'm not sure what she's up to, but it can't be anything to worry about.

    Drew, Alex & Sam headed to the back portions of the farm shortly after lunch as Drew wanted to inspect the edges of the swamp & see how high water levels are back there as well as check out the fences. He tells me as they're in pretty boggy ground, they're the ones most inclined to fall over & this year, he'd rather they stay up. No kidding. Joe headed out with them as well, being eager to see for himself how easy it might be to get on to the property from behind the swamp & pond area. Drew thinks someone would have to be VERY motivated to try but he also admits that by harvest time, it's much drier back there & easier to get on to the main fields.

    They headed back with mixed news. There's water back there, a LOT of water & some of the portions of the back fields & pastures are flooded. The beaver dam is still there, but overflowing. That's no surprise as where the stream runs under the road it's right now running OVER the road - an annual problem when there's been a heavy snow load Drew tells us. As long as it doesn't wash out the road, I don't suppose that's a problem right now. Yes, there is fence down back there, but there's also a lot of trees down acting as barriers in their own right. Joe thinks a bit of 'strategic dragging' with barbed wire interspaced in there & we might have us a nice impenetrable fence. Works for me. The other option is to somehow make the fences separating the backfields from the swamp higher & nastier & I can't see how we can easily do that.

    Drew uses the back pastures later in the year. Seeing as they're so wet, they have high levels of ground water making for rich grass later on. The cattle love it. This year though, we'll have to keep some people out there with the cattle as no doubt some will try to make off with some, if not all of them. That's a problem for later as right now we have more than enough on our plate. They did report a fair bit of wood down that we can use for firewood next winter & some time this summer, we've got to find time to go in there & cut it up into lengths we can haul out easily. Every day, I'm more thankful we have both the horses & dogs.

    Isabelle found her second day as an 'adult' just as difficult as her first day. Today, much of her work consisted of doing a proper cleaning of the bathrooms & I mean PROPER. She tried whisking dirt under mats & whined that if soap scum didn't come off of sinks & counters, it was the soap's fault - right! Louise simply made her do these chores over again until they were properly done. Oh we're not expecting sparkling ceramic from a seven year old, but we DO expect an honest effort. The laundry she re-washed yesterday was folded & placed on peoples' beds.

    Cindy taught her how to make chocolate chip cookies - one of the more fun things she got to do today & they turned out quite well. It was cute to see her carefully watching them bake. I think she was afraid she'd burn them. She didn't though & we all praised her efforts, as they were good. Mind you, it's not easy to mess up Toll House cookies, is it? Mark worked her little butt off on the pony shortly after lunch & he reports she at least stopped complaining incessantly about how boring it was to saddle over & over again. Today, she decided to do it right the first time & only needed Mark to properly tighten the girth for her.

    She misses being with the other children but the break from her machinations is doing them well. She can be a real petty tyrant, even with those bigger than she happens to be. We did allow her a break to play with 'her' kitten & she promised not to play in the loft - a first for her. I'm hoping within a few days, she'll begin to see the wisdom of doing things our way. We may not always be 100% correct but I guarantee we're right more often than any seven year old!

    Our plants which were started weeks ago are really taking off now. Some need watering several times a day & we've added to the chore list for the kids the job of rotating them one quarter turn every few hours in an attempt to keep them growing as straight as possible. One large section of the planned kitchen garden is sheltered & drains well. Hopefully some of the less tender vegetables can be transplanted out there soon. The others, those caring for them, tell me that day can't come too soon!

    The kids are having a blast watching the plants sprout & grow. It's a fun way to teach some science. I've been able to explain exactly what seeds are & how they're put together in such as way as to make it easy for young plants to start growing. Carol wanted to know why so many seed leaves are identical, no matter what the species or variety of sprouted seed. I really don't know but will try & find out. We did place a few sprouts in areas with less light. Others aren't being turned or watered properly. I want the kids to see how important it is to properly care for crops. This is more than an elementary school science project - our very lives may depend on it. Ashley pointed out that out in the fields, plants can't be rotated & she's quite right. I showed her one of my basic astronomy books, in particular a section which shows how the sun rises higher in the sky as spring progresses. The kids are going to keep an eye on the passage of the sun over the maple shading Greg's grave. They'll be able to see for themselves that the sun passes over it sooner & higher as we get warmer weather.

    I had an adventure myself today - a pleasant encounter with a group of neighbors the ones across the street mentioned to us. They'd told us in a note that they considered one group living close to them somewhat 'strange' - whatever that meant. I met one of the gentlemen & two of his teenaged sons today when I took a walk along the road. I simply walked east to where the runoff ditch is overflowing the road. You can easily get by, as long as you're careful not to slip as the water is only running about three inches higher than the road. I'd walked about two hundred yards farther on, to where the road bends north & parallels the swampy area.

    To my surprise, the three came around the corner & were themselves surprised, as all three stopped dead. Two were armed & before they could get their rifles up, my hands were in the air & believe me, I wasn't moving either. We all stood that way for what seemed like an hour although it couldn't have been more than a minute or so. I'm not sure what impression they got, but I saw a man obviously used to hard work & 2 younger lads who looked as if they also knew the business end of tools. They were plainly dressed in jeans, warm shirts & hats & the unarmed one was carrying a small rucksack - I'm assuming with food & drink. They were dusty but have been near wash water recently & although they didn't look afraid of me, they certainly looked cautious.

    I called out my name & stated I lived on the farm about 500 yards behind me, the one fronting on this road facing south. I thought it best to add I was part of a large group! The man slowly lowered his rifle & introduced himself as Wade Harrison, along with his sons Nathan & Lew. He told me their farm also fronted on this road, but back a few hundred yards from the curve & faced north. Drew's told me who operated that place & he knows they died early on in The Outbreak.

    Neither of us seemed to know what to say after that - not for a time & I got to feel pretty ridiculous just standing there shuffling from foot to foot. I think they probably felt the same. I finally told them I was simply out for a stroll, just seeing for myself how the road looked & checking from the road the part of Drew's property that was waterlogged. I also added that if they needed to know, I'd had my smallpox vaccinations & that our group had been living at Drew's with no exposure for quite some time. Any further explanation would have taken too much time, so I speared them the story of the one man Annette had run into.

    That seemed to be what he wanted to hear. He called back that they were also smallpox free & if I wanted, I could approach nearer, moving slowly of course. I did move closer, closing up to within about ten feet. Hey, I'm not stupid enough to get right to arms' reach of strangers - especially not these days. I asked how long they've been settled on the property where they're staying. Close to three weeks was the answer & he asked if I knew those across the road from me. I replied that we'd had some contact in note form, but not much more than that yet. I also volunteered the information that the group across from us had mentioned a second group living nearby - did he know of those people? He did & said they appeared to be hardworking, God fearing folk - just like his family.

    That gave me a bit of a start. I explained we were staying with friends of mine, the farmer who owns the land & were presently beginning the process of working the land. He nodded approvingly at that, stating his group was very involved in exactly the same work right now & this was the first day they'd had to take any kind of break. I asked what they had for assets, what tools, seeds or such. Funny enough, they also have horses, but just the one team. He said learning what they were doing had been very hard, but they were coping & thought they'd be able to manage the workload. They were able to bring chickens & a pregnant sow with them & he proudly announced she was due to farrow.

    They traveled from the Galesburg area to get here & stopped as soon as they found land & indications of other people. It must have been quite a trip. This man has three other adult men with him, 2 women, one of whom is his wife & one a young widow, his two sons & three other teens, 2 of them girls. They also have three children between ten & twelve with them. They got here the hard way, pulling everything they brought with them on wagons & sleds. It sounds to me like a miserable trip. They found, as have many who've settled on farms near here, that much of what they would need was on site. They have seed, basic tols & from the looks & sounds of it, a whole lot of determination.

    That short bit of conversation relaxed both of us. I quite happily told him the basics about our group, who we were, how many we were & what we were up to. He seemed relieved to hear Anne is a nurse. It seems the young widow is due within a few weeks - a second baby & while she's been insisting she can do it just fine, especially with the help of his wife, he personally would sure be grateful if Anne could take a look at her sometime? He was polite in his request & offered to trade something for Anne's time & efforts. Now THAT certainly made me feel better. This man sounds as though he's got a good grip on what's going on these days & I told him while I couldn't speak for Anne, I was certain she'd be more than happy to visit the young lady - Lisa I think he said her name was.

    I explained we were fortunate enough to have a fair amount of livestock & thought with a lot of work, we'd manage well this winter. He mentioned the other group also seems to be working hard. They're a smaller group, three adults & 2 children, but he said they had a nice piece of land to work with & had a cow, as well as several chickens. He wished he had chickens! I'm not sure if that was a hint, but I'm sure at some time in the future, we can talk turkey - or chicken or piglet!

    We spoke for about fifteen minutes, uneasy at the presence of each other, cautious, and yet eager to have some contact with hopefully like-minded folks. He asked me what I knew of our new neighbors & I had to admit not much more than basic things such as names, ages, former occupations & such. I expressed concern over their apparent lack of real work, although I admitted they might be working backfields, rather than those out front behind Drew's pasture. No, he replied. He could clearly see the back of their place & nothing appeared to be happening in terms of ploughing, planting, preparing. I explained that Drew had sent over several pages of information about the type of work which needed doing now, but they sure didn't seem in a hurry to start. He agreed, then shrugged, saying that he didn't have the time or inclination to worry about those not prepared to help themselves; all of his energy was going to be engaged in doing the necessary work at his place.

    I offered him a copy of Drew's notes, not being sure what he knows about farming. He explained he'd worked as a farm hand as a young lad putting himself through school, but felt woefully lacking in knowledge & would appreciate whatever advice Drew could provide. He was sure the other, smaller group wouldn't say no to some advice either. He added he'd been a real estate agent before all of this & grinned, telling me he was sure glad he wasn't counting on that to earn his supper now - the bottom has really fallen out of the market so to speak. No kidding.

    I didn't want to spend too much time with him, well I did, but I also wanted to tell the others I'd met some members of this group & get their impressions based on what I had to say. That, other than a basic telling of meeting them & who they are had to wait until after supper as we all had work to do with the sun out, but the others appeared delighted that other groups seemed content to speak with us. The paranoia levels must be running high. I know before I never thought about all the strangers I passed daily whereas now, such occurances take on a huge significance.

    I did find out why our neighbors across the way might have found this group 'strange'. Seems one of the young ladies had encountered the eighteen-year-old, Nathan & had really flirted him up. Wade rather brusquely chased her off, telling her Nathan had work to do & she shouldn't be out on her own these days. He's right, but from what Annette tells me about those two girls, they'll do what they want, when they want; consequences be damned.

    After our supper, we held our usual gathering & spoke of both groups of neighbors. We're almost regretting have invited those from across the road for a meal Sunday, but until they've proven themselves more of a hindrance than a help, I suppose it's not fair to be unfriendly. I want Anne's impression of the other group though; I think I'll walk over with her tomorrow & if she gets a good feeling from them, we can ask them for NEXT Sunday afternoon.

    I'm wondering if we should reach out to the smaller group as well over the next week or so if time permits. I'm inclined to think anyone with kids & who's already working is probably not going to be a threat to us. I only hope those across the street don't become a real problem.

    Well, my bed is calling me & tomorrow promised to be clear & warm - back to work time of course. I'll be ploughing again, no doubt as my blister is healed enough. This time, I'll be careful about blisters!
    More of my thoughts on flu/health matters and the latest news can be found at [url=]The Laboratory[/url].

  18. #178
    Join Date
    May 2001
    Kingston, Ontario, Canada

    middle of the night, 26 April, '03

    Oh goodness, I may not sleep the rest of the night & I'm not anyone else will either. After an interesting, busy day we were woken up about an hour ago by quite a commotion out in the yard or more accurately, the field closest to the house. The dogs were barking loudly & the cows mooing in a very agitated fashion. It woke us all up & hearing a voice yelling out curses certainly finished the job of opening our eyes?

    Joe, Jake & Drew were out of the house before I got a good breath into me, all armed to the teeth & Andy, Alex & Tom weren't far behind, this time with lanterns. It was most confusing for a few minutes with cows continuing to bellow & the dogs going absolutely mad. Sarah had the good sense to let the dogs loose as soon as she got dressed & believe me; they chased off the intruders!

    Now things are still pretty much in an uproar but it seems that someone decided to make off with some of our cows. I don't know how many they were after & how many there are & right now, the men are out trying to get answers to those questions. There appear to have been at least two of them, judging by the footprints left in the mud & Drew says there are perhaps three. Two of the dogs are still out there somewhere & Sarah is worried sick. We've heard no shots fired, so they may simply be continuing to pursue the interlopers or be taking advantage of being loose. The men are in a large group together - our men that is & they have four of the dogs with them on choke chains & long leads. Sarah isn't sure how well they'll track if at all, but they were definitely chasing after something out there when the men left. I pray for all their safety.

    Jean is absolutely spitting with rage. One of the calves, a fine young bull calf somehow got knocked over in the confusion & has broken a leg. She's already destroyed it & is currently, with Mark & Annette's help, hanging it in the back shed so we can later butcher it. Maxine & Anne are near the back & front doors, both with rifles in hand & Louise is watching from the windows upstairs for any signs of trouble or the return of our men. Thankfully, the moon is half full & it's a clear night. If anyone else approaches, we'll have some warning.

    Odd, just about an hour before this all started - it's about two in the morning now, I would have sworn I heard a dog barking from on down the road, towards the other group of settlers. I wonder if they have a dog that heard something? I didn't think much about it except to wonder who had a dog other than us. Perhaps we'll have to start tying up one or more of the dogs near the cattle.

    The men told us they'd try & follow any trail the thieves left & try to establish where they might have come from. I hope they're not from any of the neighbors we have - that would be more than awkward & a huge problem. I'm inclined to think it may simply have been someone 'on the road' & hungry although what they'd planned to do with an entire cow in the hours remaining until daylight is beyond me.

    The children are not settled back to sleep yet, understandably. They were quite frightened to see so many of the adults go tearing off into the night, armed & looking grim faced - the stuff of nightmares. Isabelle claimed she was fine in her little room, but I told her I wasn't fine; would she please lie down on the couch here beside me? I'm sure she was relieved at the offer & is snuggled down right now under a nice big comforter. She's not sleeping, but only David appears to have fallen back to sleep.

    I'm alternating between praying & writing here & thought I'd best write this before the men come home. We don't know what's happening out there save that Anne swears she can hear the dogs once in a while. There are lights showing dimly across the way - I'm sure the noise disturbed the neighbors too.

    I'll keep waiting & praying - HARD!
    More of my thoughts on flu/health matters and the latest news can be found at [url=]The Laboratory[/url].

  19. #179
    Join Date
    May 2001
    Kingston, Ontario, Canada

    after lunch, 26 April, '03

    Oh my, I'm still rattled & very tired. I'm tired but not sleepy though, so rather than nap - which would be the sensible thing to do, I'll simply note down the results of last evening's disturbance.

    The men came back shortly before dawn, thankfully with the two loose dogs in tow. They followed the would-be thieves for about a mile down the road, past the neighbors Tom met yesterday & continued on until the tracks led into a wooded area a good ways from here. There WERE three people involved it seems. Joe got a good clear look at three different sets of footprints. They didn't see them although the men feel as though perhaps at least one may have bitten by one of the dogs. They heard one of the loose females taking on something & a whole lot of shouting & cursing at one point just before the strangers headed into the woods. The loose dogs were caught just outside the woods & Sarah is thankful they're back home safe & sound.

    On the way back, Tom stopped at the farm where the folks he met yesterday are staying. He was smart enough to come up their drive alone holding a lantern & loudly announcing his coming. Most of that group were clearly visible at windows & barn doors, all armed & all looking VERY alert. Tom explained what had happened & warned Wade & the others that the thieves had entered the woods not farm from their home - perhaps they'd want to be extra careful the next few days. Wade told him his dog had been barking up a storm shortly before midnight, but they'd chosen not to let her loose, simply getting up & dressed & making it VERY clear to anyone who might be out there that the place was being watched over.

    He said they'd heard, or thought they had, the men running back & they had certainly heard the commotion from our place. They thought they saw the fleeing people, but chose not to go chasing after them, not at night & not knowing what was going on. A wise choice, I think! In any case, we're all going to be much more careful. Drew went to the neighbors across the way but other than being woken up by all the commotion, they claim to have neither seen nor heard the thieves. They didn't seem too worried about it, saying they didn't have much to steal anyway, so why worry. They may not have possessions, but who knows what else these people may have been after?

    In the morning light, it's clear whatever happened out there, the cattle had been quite upset. They're still nervous today & we're all staying away from them. Drew is going to be pasturing them in the two fields a little further from the house during the day, then driving them back into the smallest field closest to us at night. Alex, Mark & the rest of the younger men are going to resume regular guard duties, spending most of that time outside in pairs, patrolling the areas closest to the house & barns. Well, we knew that sort of action would soon be necessary, we just hoped we'd be able to hold off on it a while. Our daily work is tiring enough. However, man proposes, God disposes as the saying goes. We'll cope as best we can.

    Right now, Tom & Anne accompanied by Alex have headed off down the road to 'visit' the neighbors. Anne of course, did want to have a look at the expectant young lady & is as curious as the rest of us about these people. I hope they have a pleasant visit & the introduction should go well; Noreen sent along some steaks that have to be used up quickly as well as a lovely lemon layer cake. I should say two cakes. If they're eating as much as folks are around here, one won't last the meal tonight!

    The children have been nervous about leaving the house & we've assured them that if they stay in sight & calling distance & if they keep their eyes open, they should come to no harm. Nighttime sneak thieves aren't usually interested in coming across any trouble. Nevertheless, they're keeping close & finding all sorts of excuses to come into the house; usually to "check on me", to see if I need anything!

    The farm work continues on. The home gardens are almost finished now in terms of clearing away weeds & rocks. We'll no longer send just a few people to back reaches of the farm with rocks & other refuse. It may not be the same course of action until we have some answers about the would-be thieves. Drew is out ploughing, as he has been all morning, but Sarah is with him keeping watch on what's going on around where he's working. She brought one of the dogs with her & is letting the animal run loose. She said with only one dog, it's less likely the animal will take off & the dog can give them extra warning. They are prone to barking & tend to race off after every squirrel & rabbit they see, but a dog is an extra measure of safety. Mark & Annette will ride out to where Drew & Annette are located in an hour or so, to bring them a hot drink & snack. It will be Annette's first excursion on horseback out of the farmyard & she's quite excited about that.

    Mark kept the riding work with the children on the short side this morning. The incident last night badly broke our developing routine & people are still edgy & tired & we have much to discuss this evening. Drew plans to finish work for the day early & has asked those of us in the house to have supper early. He'd like to eat, take care of evening chores, then have a serious & probably long family meeting. As Jake & Joe have been harping on, it's time we became serious about our safety & security & we have company coming tomorrow. We'll need to discuss that as well, how we're going to seat everyone, what we're serving & how much we can & should tell them about ourselves & what we're doing.

    Cindy, Louise & Noreen are cooking up a storm. As well as a roast ham - one of our last ones cooked & thinly slices as a cold meat, we'll do a huge roast of beef with the accompanying vegetables & trimmings. There's bread being baked, pies & a cake & cookies for the kids if they still have empty corners to fill. The women have even made some fruit juices from canned raspberries, peaches & strawberries. It smells wonderful. For the adults, we'll open a few bottles of wine. Of course we don't know what they like to eat, but with the crowd that will be here there's a good variety to choose from. The women think it best if we serve everything buffet style. We can sit on chairs & sofas, cushions & extra wooden chairs & the kids can sit on the floor on mats & the carpet if they wish. For them, it will be in the manner of an indoor picnic.

    We're looking forward to the meal, but also looking forward to a good long chat after. It seems ages since most of us have had a chance for a good visit with anybody & I for one am eager to hear how they've coped, how they got here & what their plans are for the rest of the year.

    I'm also eager to hear how Tom, Alex & Annie make out at the other set of neighbors today & I hope they turn out to be pleasant people. Oh now what's this? Here comes Alex haring up the driveway & he looks quite out of breath. I'd best put this down & see what that's about.

    Well now, always something unexpected. He was only here a few minutes, to tell us that the smaller group had shown up at the door over at the other place; rather two of the adults & a ten year old boy who Anne thinks has a broken arm. Oh poor Annie - I hope it's a SIMPLE break this time! Anne wanted some of her first aid supplies & Maxine located & packed those up while Mark saddled the hose. Alex stopped only long enough to take a drink then ran back to let them know Mark was on the way. I expect Mark will arrive well before Alex does & I hope he has the good sense not to come barreling up their drive without letting them see who he is.

    Now goodness me, where was I?

    Now I've completely lost my train of thought. My it doesn't take much to rattle me these days, does it?

    Ah yes, safety & worries. The men especially our police officers have mentioned security & the need to be especially careful over & over again but this still served as a rude awakening. I've spoken with Andy about people he encountered in town & he's quite perturbed at how many seem so unprepared to look after themselves. He worries that when they run out of food & perhaps realize it may be too late to plant all they need, they may look to other sources for their needs & wants. Unfortunately, unless they're inclined to try their luck in other locations, those 'other sources' will consist mainly of the food grown by those like us who've, excuse the expression - busted our butts to get plants from seed to harvest & animals from younglings to slaughterable.

    Oh the radio news broadcasts have been honest & stark about the outlook for this coming calendar year. The Outbreak is far from over, with several waves of infection yet to come. Other diseases will increasingly take a toll on the few remaining. There is very little, if any, food left in the larger urban areas. Even smaller towns have little left available to those who want to stock up. I suspect those sources will rapidly be thoroughly depleted. And then what? People will still be hungry, perhaps unable to travel & desperate to feed themselves & their families. How far will they be willing to go to secure that food?

    I'm not sure what I would do, to be perfectly honest about it. I'd hope God would give me strength, direction & help but there are no guarantees that we'll be answered as we hope to be. And certainly, there are no guarantees that what we need will easily be available to us.

    Drew has quite an agenda for tonight's meeting. We like to think of ourselves as good Christians, able & willing to help those around us but at what point must we limit the amount of help we provide? If someone continually takes, provides no form of assistance in return & leaves us with little extra, what do we say to those who may be 'more worthy'; who may be perfectly willing to work hard for any help they receive? I need to pray a whole lot more on this one & I am truly troubled by these questions. I KNOW for a fact that we can provide help to some, that we have the extra materials we'd need. I'd feel so much better about it though if I could be sure those I helped were prepared to take that help, then do what they can for themselves.

    It's at times like these when despair is not far away. God has burdened us, for His own good reasons with many difficult trials & tribulations. He has posed questions He wants us to answer; a test of sorts? Willing or not, we are forced to answer His questions & this at times feels like those tests where there are no really right or wrong answers - some are righter than others, but justifications can be found for almost any proposed solution. The biggest question in my mind is - does any answer I propose & enact sit well with God? That is so difficult to answer sometimes. I'm not prescient & can never be sure of the outcome of decisions I take. I need to be as prepared as possible to answer to my God when I pass on & I'm not certain all my actions will stand up to His scrutiny. Oh dear, I suppose we can never be 100% sure of that.

    I think it may be a good idea for me to set this aside now & go back to my Bible. The answers are there & I'll pray for God to remove the scales from my eyes, to help me see clearly. I desperately need guidance & I'll pray that the rest of us discover, through His help, some of the answers we need for the difficult questions facing us.
    More of my thoughts on flu/health matters and the latest news can be found at [url=]The Laboratory[/url].

  20. #180
    Join Date
    May 2001
    Kingston, Ontario, Canada

    evening, 26/04/03

    I think I'd better take this entry. I'm do to go out with Alex in an hour or so to do night watch & if I try & nap now I'll be impossible overnight. Dad, Andy & Sam will take their turns along with the other men over time but I volunteered to do it tonight with Alex.

    We had a very long meeting after an early supper - good thing Drew insisted we eat early or no one would have gotten to bed at anything resembling a reasonable time. He had a lot he wanted to discuss & others did as well. I'll tell you, it got quite heated at times.

    Obviously the first matter that came up for discussion was last night's incident. You know, I donut know what we would have done with those guys if we'd caught them but it's more of a worry that we don't know where they are or what they might try next. I hope they or others don't come here but Joe told me not to be a fool. It's pretty clear looking at this place that people are living here, have edible animals & probably other food. He thinks it's only a matter of time before a serious effort is made to steal our cattle & other things. I hated to admit it & wish he'd chosen to be more polite about it, but he's right. The proverbial sh*t is gonna hit the fan soon & we MUST look after our people & stuff.

    In terms of security, we're tightening up. While we're all desperate for sleep, we have to keep a night watch. We spoke of four-hour shifts, but in the long run, it makes more sense for two people to be up all night once in a while than for two teams to have a broken night. We don't have time for catch-up naps. We've split into teams & will do one night at a time. Tomorrow night it's Joe & Dad, followed by Drew & Mark, Morgan & Sarah, Sam & Annette, Mom & Andy, with Noreen & Jean making up our final team. That gives us seven teams, one for each night of the week & each team will be armed with a rifle & shotgun & have a dog with them - on a leash. We'll carry our 'rape whistles' & lanterns, although we won't light those until we must - they really screw up your night vision.

    We'll randomly patrol the property, concentrating on the farmyard & night pasture for the horses & cattle. As the dogs settle in to somewhat more than sled work, we're hoping we can start letting a few of them run loose at night. Sarah is working hard to give them a sense of what is 'their' territory & is hoping that within a fairly short period of time, they'll raise holy hell should anyone get too close. The cattle don't seem to mind them & I'm counting on the mares & cows to be nervous about any strangers around their young. I hope it works that way - I should ask Drew or Jean about that.

    We looked over Drew's maps of the place, noting especially those areas we're currently using & areas that could provide easy access to the property. Andy is busy collecting tin cans & fishing line - he wants to run tin can alarms all around the farm yard; hey it can't hurt. We still have the road partly blocked on both sides of the front gate, using telephone poles, which came down with the winter storms. We may use other poles to add a second barrier farther back. They'd still be easy enough to get around on foot or by horse, as Mark showed today, sailing over one as though it wasn't there, but anyone trying to get through with any sort of vehicle would find their way blocked. Going through the fields is next to impossible right now with any vehicles & drew showed us ways we can make that totally impossible. He has several drainage ditches cut & says with a bit of work, those can be added to in order to make it impossible to get anything larger than a kids' wagon out of here. That would mean anyone wanting to take substantial amounts of our stuff would have to eliminate us first. That would take some doing & as governments love to say, we prefer the concept of deterrence.

    Deterrence now I think, can be covered by making it clear that we are here, we are numerous & we are READY for trouble. Our guard teams will make no attempt to disguise their presence. We want to be heard, if not seen & being seen won't be so bad. Anyone waking up at night to use the outhouse will come out armed, (except for the kids of course) & make their presence known. If that means passerby think our guards are more numerous than they are, great!

    We must protect our cattle, horses & poultry & later on, our crops. Once those get planted & growing well, we'll have more time, (I hope), to look after stuff. We'll really need to have people sleeping out & doing more watching than sleeping. Drew is adamant about that - that we'll have to have people scattered about the place at night as well as some of the dogs. The closer we get to harvest time, the higher the risks are going to be. Part of me wishes that by then, well BEFORE then, anyone who's going to run out of food will have & having done so, will choose to leave the area. Either that or they'll have tried to rob other places & other folks will have had to take care of them. If not wanting to deal with them myself makes me a coward - I'll live with that.

    See, there's been so much death already & I've had to clean up more than my share of that death. I don't want to be forced to cause anyone else's death. Killing someone defending my family, my food & animals makes them no less dead. I'll feel no less like a complete shit, especially if it turns out I've killed someone simply trying to feed their own four year old. That's why I was & remain so incredulous at those still thinking someone will show up to bail them out. I don't know how many times they have to be told before it will sink in ... THERE IS NO RESCUE COMING. They have got to understand, they themselves have to get to work... RIGHT NOW to ensure they survive the coming winter.

    There's tons of empty land lying around ready to be worked & planted. The station has repeated, often, how many acres a person needs to plant to feed themselves over the winter, how much acreage must be sown to support poultry, cattle, swine & horses. I hope, I pray, that people are listening. Farmers willing to be interviewed are going out of their way to 'demystify' the whole world of farming. They've been clear that you don't have to plough. If you don't have the time or equipment & have land that's in decent shape, you don't have to plough. You can simply scratch away enough dirt to plant the seeds at the proper depth, cover them up, water & cross your fingers. It may result in slower planting, but Drew agrees a lot of time is saved by not turning over the soil. Drew added that planting in this way could certainly provide enough for a family, but there was no way you could do enough planting to provide grain for food animals.

    Drew suggested to me how animals might be provided for. There is enough land lying fallow, or it will be as most will not be worked this year - not with the absence of fuel. Much of that will sprout anyway as during harvest enough gleanings remain on the ground to begin sprouting the following year. Hayfields will still grow too. Folks with animals should find these fields, monitor them & cut hay as well as harvest the grain & corn when it's ripened. That will still make for awfully slim pickings for many, but they CAN get by doing this & hunting in the fall, fishing where & when they can & generally scrounging as much as they can from Mother Nature. The food may not be what they're used to, but food is food - especially when you're damned good & hungry.

    I've strayed a bit off the topic of security; sorry. Dad & Drew have been around all the windows again, checking sight lines & seeing how much time/shooting space we have between cover & the house. The barns are a concern & will have to be dealt with. They're closer to the woods & farther from protection & Drew agrees with Joe that they need to be protected somehow. I had a thought - someone might try & burn us out if we don't 'co-operate' with their demands for food. From the way many faces in the room paled, it hadn't crossed anyone else's mind. I could see the gears in Drew's mind grinding as he thought through that possibility.

    When he spoke on it, it was painful to see. He agreed with me that something of the sort could happen. Of course, we could end up having to fight fire from lightening strikes or fires from elsewhere that spread due to the lack of a fire department. The solution he thinks is to use some of our invaluable fuel to plough firebreaks around the farmyard. Drew says it can be done, that if we plough up strips of land & strive to keep them vegetation free, we may escape fire damage. There's little we can do to protect most of the land, the fields & pastures, but if we can keep the house & barns intact, we can struggle through.

    Somewhat along those lines, Maxine raised the question that I for one hadn't thought of - how & where were we going to store what we harvest. Drew admitted that's one major headache he hasn't sorted out yet. He has two fairly large silos but admits filling them is going to be a huge amount of heavy, manual labor. Oh, no kidding! They're each about four stories high & Drew used to hire a company to take the grain & feed he kept each fall to fill it using some sort of machinery. Morgan is going to have a look & muttered something about pulleys, hoists, rope & huge baskets. Oh Lordie, that sounds backbreaking! Hay, chicken feed & sundry grains are going to end up stored anywhere we can stuff them & Drew put the women on notice that we're going to need LOTS of feed bags - as if they already didn't have enough to do. Louise & Cindy groaned - they know what that means for them as they grow heavier & less able to handle physical work. Wait - wrong impression. They'd kill me if they thought I was making them sound like pampered wimps. They don't complain & in my opinion, they do more than they should be doing in terns of physical work. I had the gall to say as much to Gran & I thought she was going to hit me. She told me to stop underestimating what pregnant women can handle, that no woman wanted to risk her unborn child & they wouldn't tackle anything they can't cope with. I fled to the horse barn after that mini-lecture the other afternoon!

    I think we can fill the silos with a lot of back breaking work, then it becomes a matter of keeping rodents out of it. Gee, suddenly I wish we had more cats. I hope those kittens turn out to be good 'verminators'. They'll be worth their weight in gold if they are. MC has already presented Noreen with several mice, shrews & one rat. She brings them to the back porch, gives a strange yowl, then waits to be made much of. Her reward is a disgusting mess of pickled sardines & olive oil. Cats eat the strangest things...

    So in terms of firebreak, Drew is looking over what we'd need to do tomorrow morning. It would be something like ploughing he said. Plough up about a 10-yard firebreak, then keep it weed-free. Any waste water that not too disgusting can be thrown out there - excellent use for dish & bath water. Morgan will rig a system of drainage hoses with stopcocks so we can rotate where water is poured. Keeping the ground evenly moist may be a problem as summer starts. We can have some pretty bone dry summers here. Dad suggested barrels of water strategically placed, every 5 yards or so along with old blankets or burlap. That could be used to beat down sparks & small flames should we face a fire. Morgan is adding to our water system almost daily. Currently, the shady side of the house, (outside), is being lined with cleaned & screened water barrels, as are the sides of the barns & sheds. He's almost completed his self-set task of running eavestrough along the rooflines of those buildings so that we can catch all the water that results from rain. Some we'll use for animals in or near the barns, those we can't let run in the pasture across the road & in the event we get lots of rain, Morgan is trying to come up with ideas to store that excess. Noreen suggested waterbed mattresses that resulted in a fair amount of forehead smacking from some of us. Heck for a time when I was a Y2K freak, I'd seriously considered that option. The plastic is tough & they'll hold a lot of water. If we can keep them out of the sun, they'd store enough to water gardens when it's dry, fight fires & anything else needful.

    Drew is also worried about pasturing the cattle across the road. Depending on how useful the folks across the way appear to be, he may consider asking them to act as watchmen for some shifts, paying them in a steer or three come fall. We'll hold off on that though & I have a feeling that idea isn't going to pan out. With the stream there, the cattle will have to spend a fair bit of time there this summer, we have neither the time nor easy ways of watering them during dry spells here in the home fields. So, we may need extra people sleeping out there along with dogs. Sarah said we could position dogs along the fence line, simply picketing them on long chains - another item to obtain -chain. Big, honking snap swivels too & more dog collars.

    Back to security, we spent some time brainstorming possible 'what if' scenarios. Max brought up the possibility of someone snatching one of the kids & holding them for food ransom. Yeah, hateful thought but always possible. We're going to have to continue to limit the kids to staying around here unless adults are with them. I don’t the kids will mind that much, especially after last night. It's not as though they're going to have tons of time to do much running around off the property anyway. We plan to take them swimming when we can, up at the pond, Mark & Annette will eventually take them riding out, first alone then as they get better, in larger groups. Well groups of two as we only have two ponies & Mark says it will be at least another year before the largest kids are ready for the smallest saddle horse - real horse. Hey if we happen across another pony, I wouldn't say no, except that shoveling out stall muck is not my idea of fun.

    So the kids will stay in sight & that applies to adults too - no going anywhere alone. Groups of two armed people at a minimum & if people need time alone, they'll have to find a way to do that together. Perhaps a triad of people sitting a few feet apart back to back & covering every one else's butt. It doesn't sound too satisfying, but injury or worse is even less satisfying. Mark is gonna feel that one. He's dying to put the riding horses through what he calls 'real work'; whatever that means to a horseman. Drew has given him permission to haul some logs & brush & other obstacles into part of the home field - as long as they don't harm the cattle. Mark would like to get them used to popping over fences, downed timber & such stuff. He says it may come in handy some day, if anyone has to outrace idiots shooting at them or trying to grab them for whatever reason.

    Anne & Noreen's trip to town is still on. Alex will accompany them in however, along with Sam & they'll walk back as soon as the women are safely in. They'll get Noreen safely to town & check out our old house before Anne goes in there. They'll drop by the clinic & tell the staff there that Anne will be around once she's finished at our place. The two men plan to accompany Noreen as far as her first planned stop, then do some 'sightseeing' themselves. They both have lists of items they'd like to bring home - the chain I mentioned, swivel snaps & some huge, thick thread - almost like thin twine & ginormous needles, carpet needles I think Noreen called them. I think she's planning on picking up that stuff. They'll bring home a load of stuff & when they return to pick up Noreen & Anne in 2-3 days - we'll all decide that tomorrow, they'll bring home the rest of what we'd like to have. I'll bet stuff is in short supply now. Morgan has given Sam a pretty specific list of paint & small brushes he wants; some project he's working on but he wont tell; just smiles & says we'll have to wait & see - never my favorite words.

    Tomorrow is visiting day & the kids were scrubbed to within an inch of their short lives by the women today. Hair was trimmed - I ducked out on that one although I promised to at least shave tomorrow morning. I like to on a Sunday anyway - out of respect. The women were nattering like nesting birds & I pray they won't have a case of nervous giggles. We're looking forward to a day off, as far as farm work goes. Chores will seem quick & dirty after how busy we've been this week & the rest of the morning will be taken up by quiet time when we're not preparing for our visitors. All we have to do is rearrange some of the furniture to make room for everyone. We'll all squeeze into the front room at first, the move into the kitchen for the rest of the evening. If we leave the front room door open, the kids can play in there or even in the kitchen when the adults sit around & chat. If the weather co-operates, we can send the kids out front to play for a time. They may enjoy the company of new kids.

    I'm sure curious to hear what they have to say about how they're coping, how they view things. It sounds like they're not doing very much & I'm wondering when the hell they plan on starting? Food won't grow itself, but perhaps they have other major concerns we're unaware of. Maybe they have someone really sick or something - I don't know. We left a note this morning at the mailbox, telling them to come on over about noonish. They answered back fairly promptly, saying they'd be there with bells on.

    Well, best go get my stuff ready. Alex & I have to get out there within half an hour or so. Time to load the thermos with coffee & make sure the lantern & guns are ready.
    More of my thoughts on flu/health matters and the latest news can be found at [url=]The Laboratory[/url].

  21. #181
    Join Date
    May 2001
    Kingston, Ontario, Canada

    evening, 26 April, '03

    Oh my, another very eventful & thought provoking day. It got to the point where I feared it would never end. I AM getting old, no matter what I'd like to think. Now I suppose I should start right at the beginning of the day. Joe & Alex did the first 'tour of duty' guarding the livestock. The were sure tired coming in for breakfast & Alex has been thoughtful enough last night to remind us that as we now had people out at night, there was no need for anyone else to get up early to start the fires up for coffee & breakfast. In fact the dear boy surprised us all with pancakes, homefries, (frozen but still yummy!) & bacon as well as the usual cereal. Normally we eat a hearty breakfast but knowing we had a big lunch coming up, he made sure the fire for the roast was burning well & coals were just perfect the minute Maxine got up. She'd prepared the roast last night & simply had to put it in the oven.

    The men reported a quiet night. They heard nothing but a few foxes barking, some coyotes howling & a few owls softly hooting in the woods. Oh there were some squeaks from field mice & Joe swears he saw a ton of bunnies playing under the moonlight but other than that, all remained quiet. The dog they had with them absolutely loved roaming at night. They kept her on a leash, a long one and she settled quickly, remaining alert & enjoying the unexpected outing. I'm sure she slept soundly most of the day.

    We did insist the two of them take a short nap after morning chores. This was an easy morning. The stock is all outside & the young ones healthy & growing like weeds. The foals are particularly dead to watch. They're so incredibly curious & still prone to getting themselves into situations they're not fully prepared to deal with. One little foal decided to try & play with a couple of the calves. Unfortunately, one of the cows wasn't thrilled at the idea & faced off with the foal, who promptly tried to run back to mother, only to find his way blocked by the fence. He ended up standing there on splayed legs, squealing for his mom. The mare was much more casual about it, ambling up to the cow & the two of the sniffed noses & simply stared at the foal, then looked at each other as if to say: "kids!". I almost died laughing watching them. I've had that look on my face hundreds of time, I know I have!

    I went out this morning, as it was by far the balmiest start to a day we've enjoyed since spring finally arrived. It must have been sixty five by seven this morning & I told Mark & Annette I'd appreciate the chance to watch them see to the horses. Mark designated himself my escort & tour guide & explained what they do. It's simple really. They first check the water the horses have in the two large troughs in the home field. The mares with foals & the draft horses are then brought into the barn & given a feed of grain. Both categories of horse need that as they're working hard making milk for their babies & pulling our ploughs. Mark explained the younger horses, those not actively working are currently getting all the nutrition they need from the fresh grass sprouting in the fields & in any case, there's always hay available to them. That will continue to be placed out for them morning & night until the grass is well up.

    While the horses are enjoying their feeding, Mark & Annette check over each horse carefully for any injuries. Annette told me it's possible for them to stumble at night & perhaps strain a leg muscle so they're watched while they walk. Their coats are looked over for signs of cuts or bad scrapes, especially important in the working horses. I'd hate for one of the poor beasts to have a piece of harness resting over a cut. Right now, they brush all the horses as they're still shedding their winter coats. Their new coats are growing well & you can already see the shine through the old winter hair. Their hooves are checked for injuries especially as none of them are shod. Mark also checks their mouths in case the bits have cut them in any way. The draft horses are so calm he says he could work them without bits if need be, save for the team of young geldings. If they should be injured, he'd have to rest them until the sore healed up.

    I thoroughly enjoyed going out with those two fine young people & watching them work with the horses. I've heard a lot from them about the works they're doing, but watching them in action was quite revealing. For a boy his age, Mark is very quiet & deliberate in his actions around the animals. The deliberation comes from confidence in what he's doing. He obviously knows horses very well & I was really impressed with Annette. She's always loved the IDEA of horses & riding, most young girls do, but never had much opportunity to ride - it's such an expensive pastime unless you are lucky enough to live on a farm or come from more wealth than Annette is used to.

    For someone with only a few months experience with horses, she appears fairly comfortable. I watched her brush the largest mare, a horse so big Annette needs a step stool to reach the very top of her back! I was amazed to watch her pick up the horse's hooves to check them. Apparently, it's a matter of leaning into a horse, placing your hand in front of the hoof & having faith that the animal will co-operate. That certainly was the case with the draft horses & Mark handled the young gelding who still tends to be a little frisky, especially early in the morning. He & Annette, once the older horses had been seen to, worked a bit with the foals. Right now, they're concentrating on getting them used to people. All now wear halters almost full time & they are quite willing to be led with a short lead. Mark is smart enough to keep these training sessions short, as they ARE only babies. He & Annette are now gently brushing the babies with a very soft body brush as Mark calls it. They spent some weeks running their hands over the foals' bodies, gently & slowly but firmly until they were used to that. Now they're working with the brushes & the foals seem fine with that. One does NOT like his tummy brushes though & Mark says that's not unusual among horses. He's begun trying to life their front hooves. One of the foals is getting the idea & when she does lift her hoof up & keep it up for a few moments, Mark is full of praise for her. He says once they can begin to eat real food, he can reward them with bits of carrot or apple.

    I strolled back into the house once Mark & Annette had finished their work but took the long way around. Why rush in? The women were tearing around the kitchen & getting more nervous by the minute. They had the food situation well in hand & were keeping the kids busy, outdoors. I decided to do something I hadn't done in over a week - walk around the outbuildings, I found Morgan & let him know where I was going & how long I'd be. I simply wanted to enjoy a few quiet minutes in the warm sun on a fine morning. I figured it would be hectic the rest of the day & I was proven right. But first, I enjoyed a wonderful half-hour discovering plants coming up. Noreen has, thankfully, an appreciation for old fashioned, scented flowers. The early bulbs have gone over, the crocuses, most daffodils & about half the tulips. There are still quite a few late tulips to bloom though including two scented varieties I haven't seen in years - a wonderful glowing orange that, if memory serves me right is known as 'General de Wet' & a red one with a tiny bit of yellow in the center called 'General de Wet'. Noreen has been working; in what spare time she's had in the past on two gardens - a rock garden & a large garden where the backfield slopes down towards the barn. Most of the tulips & other large bulbs are along the bank garden, but I think my favorite is the rock garden. Noreen has told me she's planted any number of alpines that can handle the climate as well as miniature versions of well-known plants. It seems a shame that she won't be able to collect more plants - all gardeners are avid collectors, but between Morgan & her, they should be able to keep this garden growing. Right now, many creeping phlox are blooming beneath smaller varieties of tulips, pink, blue & white foam tumbling over rocks. Near the house, the reddish green of peony bushes are beginning to poke through the ground. Lilac buds are swelling & we'll soon see more green appearing - almost by the hour.

    Oh I could go on for pages & pages about the gardens, the arriving birds & all the other signs of spring, but that hasn't really changed since The Outbreak hit us; nature is generally oblivious to such matters. I did pass the children on my way to the front porch & thanked them for their kind offer to play tag with them, but declined!

    Cindy suggested I might want to rest before our guests arrived & I thought that was a fine idea. I'm sure she meant for me to lay my head down for a few hours, but I'm not that decrepit yet! Instead, I read a few chapters in my Bible & dreamed a little daydream about the tiny garden of my own I'd like to do out front. I have had a chance to speak with Morgan about it & he offered to turn a little bed along the edge of the porch for me tomorrow. What a sweetheart! I asked him to do a strip about two feet wide, running from the walkway around to the west side. That will permit me to plant some of the sun loving climbers I love so much - sweet peas, morning glories, nasturtiums. I never bother trying to match colors; I simply plant what I like. I'll leave co-ordination to the purists.

    Shortly after ten, I returned to the kitchen & asked what I could do to help. The men had the front room emptied of anything non-essential & the children were giving it a final sweep. Annette had brought down pillows to act as spare seating & had covered them with fresh pillow slips - the ones Noreen likes to store with lavender blossoms. It smelled wonderful. Side trays were ready for drinks & the tables in place for the buffet. Noreen had just enough china for everyone expected. Thankfully Anne had brought over her everyday set - 16 settings there. I thought that was foolish of her however it seems she was right & I was wrong. There - that wasn't so hard to write!

    The children were quite excited & I offered to tell them a story or read to them, whatever they preferred. They preferred to be read to & Isabelle asked if I could read Robinson Crusoe to them. Tom has a simpler version of that for children - Defoe's English is archaic & difficult if you have no experience with it & we began sharing Robinson's wonderful tale. I stopped frequently & the children & I discussed how he might have felt, the loneliness & how busy he was as he did his best to make himself comfortable. The children have a far better idea of what he would have gone through, a better understanding of the work involved in keeping your wits about you & providing for yourself. They had some interesting comments & raised good points. I always am amazed at how observant, how shrewd many children can be.

    By eleven thirty, the front room was ready & the kitchen tidied up. The smell of roast & rising bread dough was wonderful & I was pleased my walk had given me a good appetite. The women were dressed & made up; something we've not seen in some time. I was glad they found the time to 'pretty up', nothing makes you feel better than having your best face on & pretty clothes. Annette surprisingly, was fairly plainly dressed & as far as I could tell was wearing no makeup. She doesn't need any; she's a good looking girl but try convincing any young lady that age that they don't need extra help with their looks! She wore a pretty summer dress that Sarah helped her make while we were waiting for the weather to turn late this winter. It shows her figure beautifully without being too revealing. The skirt is full & comes to mid-calf & we all thought she looked lovely. She wore her hair up, rather than scraped back in a bun or pony tail & my, didn't she look grown-up? I could have stared at her for hours.

    The children were all running between the kitchen & the front windows, announcing that our company wasn't here yet; something we hardly needed to be told! Of course they were on edge & excited. Of course we all felt that way. Noreen & Anne were fortunate to have the task of preparing for their trip tomorrow, but for the rest of us it was a question of filling in time until the appointed hour. Try doing any job requiring concentration when you're anticipating something special or different.

    A few minutes before noon, David went shrieking into the kitchen announcing that he'd just sighted our visitors coming down the slope we face. A few minutes later, they were coming up the drive. Drew & Tom, accompanied by Noreen greeted them at the door & ushered everyone in. My, I don't know who did more staring. Noreen put a stop to that awkward moment by suggesting everyone take a seat, then we could all introduce ourselves. Tom helped Mrs. Golightly, the older woman close to my age to a comfortable armchair right next to mine, urged the adults to find chairs & the children to make themselves comfortable on cushions & pillows on the floor.

    That done, the introductions began. Tom introduced all of us & Jack Meredith did the honors for his group. Following the initial greetings, Louise told our guests what was on the menu & that certainly brought some oohing & aahing. They've not been eating nearly as well. She added that there was about a half-hour to go before dinner was ready & explained that with the number crowded into the house, we thought it best to serve buffet style. Alice Golightly & I would be served where we sat - there ARE some advantages to our age & then in turn, we could all help ourselves. She made sure no one had allergies we needed to concern ourselves with & politely mentioned the location of the outhouse, in case that facility was needed before dinner was served. Mark offered to bring any children needing to go out to the building then escort them back. There was a flurry as a good half dozen of the kids - theirs & ours scrambled to take advantage of the opportunity.

    That item taken care of, we had a few minutes to sit & chat while Anne, Noreen & Louise dealt with final preparation of our meal. As is common under such circumstances, it seemed no one wanted to start or if they didn't, they weren't quite sure what to say. I finally stood up & welcomed our guests to our home, hoped they enjoyed the meal & mentioned we'd been looking forward to their arrival for days now. Jack thanked me & said that for his part, he was glad to meet a group with so many members similar in age to his own. He was especially glad he said, the Alice now had a companion her age - she'd found it rather lonely at their place. I can understand that. I love my family dearly, but an age mate would be a real gift.

    We had no chance to explore that as the women announced the meal. It took a good half-hour to serve everyone & not much was said as we ate. Oh me! They were a hungry bunch & I was glad we'd prepared such a large meal. Jack's wife Alia was almost in tears as she saw platter after platter of meat, vegetables & gravy boats come to the serving table. The children’s' eyes were as wide as could be. We took about three-quarters of an hour to eat & by that time, everyone was stuffed. Mark, Alex & Annette announced they'd take care of dishes & why didn't the children run along out front & the adults chat while they handled cleanup. I caught Alia trying to catch her two daughters' eyes hoping I think, they'd offer to help with dishes. They ignored her & continued to sit, staring curiously at the rest of us while our three teens busied themselves collecting dishes.

    The kids raced outside & in no time were playing a game of tag out front. Tom asked them to stay away from the outbuildings & animals, saying he'd give them a tour later. The two girls did decide to wander out to the kitchen, more to chat up ours than to help. That left the adults sitting with after dinner coffee & tea & all eager to chat. Mike Runnings complimented the women on the meal, said he'd not had a finer feed in ages & said they hoped to have us over soon - they just needed time to get some work done first. Drew asked how it was going over their way, how much planting they were planning, when & how. That opened up speech a bit. Alia asked if we really thought it was as bad as all that? Did we not think that by late summer, the government would have a grip on things again & goods would be flowing? We were a bit stunned to hear her ask what to us was such a naive question. Drew pointed out that with so few left alive & healthy relative to before The Outbreak, he didn't see how that was going to be possible.

    There's no fuel available, he pointed out, no one manning factories & food processing plants & no central control of anything any more. He didn't see that things would change for a long time. Did Alia not think it would be best to try to grow what they needed? She hesitated & said they'd like to try - just in case, but it was so much work & how were they ever going to manage? She did look frightened & yes, the prospect of doing everything for yourself is not pleasant, especially when you're not used to it. The other adults in that group looked no less concerned.

    Drew asked if they knew the extent of what they needed to do, how much land they should plant in what sorts of crops for their numbers & when Jack shook his head no, offered to walk the land with him, talk him through what would be needed & gently reminded them that this work really had to get started as soon as possible. Samantha interrupted at this point & blurted out that she just couldn't see how they'd manage all of that. It was fine for us, we had Drew's land & lots of adults to do the work even though we had eleven children to worry about, as well as myself who surely couldn't do much physical work - begging my pardon.

    The count struck me as a bit off, then I realized she was counting our young adults as children. I pointed that out & added that if you placed them properly with the adults in terms of work, as they should do with theirs; the ratio of workers to those able to do smaller quantities of work was much better. And that it seems, is their biggest problem. They're not expecting their young ladies to do any work! It turns out they don't so much as do dishes. Farrah is pregnant & of course 'can't' work & it's not fair to expect Chelsea to work if Farrah can't, is it?

    Oh boy - did that start a discussion! That in a nutshell, appears to be their biggest problem - no work coming from the children. Tom asked for a few minutes to get his point of view on the table & got it. We live now in very different times, he started & although we all wish as hard as we've ever wished for anything that things were back to normal, no one in our group saw that as possible in the immediate future. He added that we have a radio & have been monitoring news from town. He pointed out that in our area, only about 1200 people remain alive & that of these would no doubt die as well. We have no emergency services, no stores, no medical services except what people set up for themselves, no schools & no transportation as we know it left.

    The President, Vice President, Governor & Mayor have all been repeating the same information. There is NO help coming from anywhere & people are going to have to fend for themselves as best they can. In our group, Tom continued, that means everybody does work, lots of work. He pointed out that even the youngest had been taught a number of useful skills & the fact that they were able to do these chores meant the older, stronger people were free to do the more demanding tasks. I think he was glad their two daughters were in the kitchen - we could hear them chatting in there.

    Samantha Runnings asked what sorts of chores we had the kids doing, starting with the teens. The adults looked surprised when we gave such an extensive list. I suppose it would have been easier to state we simply treat them as adults in terms of work capacity. Alia looked stunned, shocked; I really wasn't sure why until she muttered something about childhood being 'too short' & 'precious'. Yes perhaps & that certainly might have been said before all this began but under the circumstances, with two great big gobs of girls like that; did she mean they did NOTHING? Apparently, that's exactly what she meant.

    Oh my, none of us was sure where to start with that issue; we all had much we wanted to say, I think. No, I KNOW! Sam began by saying sympathetically that if the girls weren't working, if the children had no chores, the adults must be utterly exhausted. They all chorused that such was indeed the case & they simply didn't see how they could add growing an extensive garden could be fit into their days. Were we quite sure, no help would be coming soon? We all chimed in on that one saying that there were no indications of any such thing & we'd heard repeatedly that people should prepare to look after their own needs for at least a year.

    That brought a chorus of dismayed gasps followed by silence, then Alice joined in, saying tartly that she'd TOLD the adults the girls would have to get off their lazy duffs & start contributing. For starters, they could cook, do dishes, do housework & probably most of the laundry. If that left them little spare time, well so what? Spare time now would probably mean a long, hard winter & starvation for all unless they contributed some honest effort. Indeed, she added, there was no reason the younger ones couldn't do any number of chores - dishes, tidying up, fetching wood & water & simply picking up after themselves.

    I thought Alia was going to cry at this point. She'd never expected much from her girls it seems & how could she ask them now to work? I could see Louise rolling her eyes, then she jumped in; pointing out that in her & Cindy’s case, pregnancy certainly was no barrier to contributing a great deal of work. She listed those tasks Cindy & her do on a daily basis. Anne added that such work kept the two women healthy & was a great preparation for labor & delivery, not to mention the sleepless nights a baby would mean for a time.

    I'm not entirely sure we convinced any of them, save for Samantha & Alice who seem to be in agreement that the girls at least, should be doing much more to help. They are adult size & if they've been spoiled, there's still time to correct that. Their parents are too soft. They couldn't imagine how they could 'force' the girls to work. I have no problems coming up with all sorts of ideas. If they don't do their laundry, they wear dirty clothes. If they don't cook, they don't eat - plain & simple.

    Drew, realizing we'd perhaps talked that subject to death for a time, then offered the adults a tour of the farm, at least the nearby buildings & corrals. The kids had finished tidying up the kitchen by then, so the twins were able to join the group as Drew walked them around the farm. I'm sure Drew thought that showing them what we've accomplished might serve as a gentle reminder that much could be accomplished if all work together. They seemed impressed by a lot of what they saw. The water barrels Morgan is setting up really caught their interest. They know that in this area water can often run short & their farmhouse has a perfectly good system of eavestroughing. They'd simply have to place drainpipes into barrels & be all set. They can get water from the stream too but it's always good to have some close to hand.

    The women loved the laundry apparatus & the twins were of course, very impressed by the horses. Both immediately began clamoring for riding lessons but Mark put them off reasonably gracefully. He told them in a regretful tone, that he had his hands full right now teaching Tom, the children & getting some of the horses used to working under harness. He pointed out that when he wasn't busy with these jobs, there was plenty of other work which needed doing. The girls both pouted, rather foolish for the pregnant one Farrah, but he made it clear time simply wasn't available.

    The girls asked if Annette rode. She said yes she did, but was just starting & had a lot to learn. She'd changed into jeans by now; a dress is fine for dinner but not the thing for touring a farmyard. She added that she was also learning to care for the animals & ignored some of the more snide comments the girls made. Oh those two are horrid little creatures to my mind. They're rude & know far too much for girls their age - far too much of the wrong things. The way they were dressed was a good example of that. They both wore tiny little tops with nothing underneath. In the case of the pregnant girl, that looked almost obscene. It was as though she was bragging about her condition. Now times may have changed, but it seemed so, so BRAZEN of her. Both girls were heavily made-up & it didn't do anything but make them look hard & shopworn. I suspect the only reason the other girl isn't pregnant is luck or good planning.

    The way they flirted with the boys was positively sickening. Alex & Mark were NOT comfortable with their behavior & did their best to avoid being too close to them. They kept trying to convince the boys to come over & 'hang out' - whatever that means. About the only 'hanging out' the boys do lately is the heavier laundry! I hope the adults in that group will wake up & put those two to good honest work before they get themselves into further trouble.

    Oh dear, I'm so very tired. I've lots yet to say about our dinner & visit but my eyelids feel like sand. I'd best put this down now, spend some time in prayer than go to bed. I'll try & complete this tomorrow.

    God bless us all...
    More of my thoughts on flu/health matters and the latest news can be found at [url=]The Laboratory[/url].

  22. #182
    Join Date
    May 2001
    Kingston, Ontario, Canada

    after lunch, 27 April, '03

    Here I am, back at work noting the events of yesterday afternoon & evening, among other things to write about. I was writing of the farm tour, I believe as Drew & the others took our guests around the farm. They were aghast at the area we'd ploughed up for the kitchen garden & even more disheartened when Sam added much of that was not meant to serve as main crops for the winter. He asked what seeds the Runnings & Merediths have & they weren't sure! Goodness, they really haven't been taking any of this too seriously. Andrew Runnings offered the astounding information that there was a perfectly good tractor sitting in the barn & from what he could see, a large number of fuel drums. Drew was pleased & excited, more so than were the Merediths & Runnings. He volunteered to come over right after supper & check the tractor & fuel. With luck he said, the fuel would be fine & the tractor operable. If that was the case, he continued, he'd be happy to show the men how to drive the tractor, hitch & operate the machinery & that ploughing up the fields would be a snap.

    To our surprise & yes, dismay, they didn't seem pleased at the idea. In fact, the men offered to HIRE Drew to do the ploughing & planting for them! They were aghast when he politely refused, saying he had far too much work to do here; what with ploughing, planting, weeding, caring for the cattle & horses, obtaining next winter's supply of firewood & everything else that goes along with keeping a family fed & healthy, he was short on sleep as it was & we'd not yet begun the real work.

    Drew at that point stopped trying to explain & did what he should have done in the first place. He reminded them of the times of the local news broadcasts & said they might want to walk into town, to City hall to speak to the Mayor if they still thought help might be arriving. He was blunt - stating that anything anyone ate next winter would have to be grown by those doing the eating or acquired through trade of some other goods or services. There was not going to be a 'cavalry' coming down the road with truckloads of food, medicines & other goods. He asked for an honest estimation of what they had left to eat. In spite of complaints from the girls that the food was "yucky", it seems they're not short. Oh they may not LIKE what's in the pantries, but those pantries were left full. Drew has often said he neighbors were careful, always had a good year's worth of supplies put by & kept extra seed, fertilizer & plenty of spare parts on hand. A nice little windfall in the form of a shared state lottery some years back made that possible! Drew again said he's come over after supper, go through the house & buildings with them & help them evaluate their current state of affairs & what they had to do next. The 'doing' he said firmly was up to them. Advice from here they could have any time they needed it, but we had much work to do.

    They really didn't like that & Alia seemed rather steamed but goodness, this isn't the city & former status of any sort is meaningless now. Those who are "only farmers' now are much in demand for advice & later, their produce. Tom added for their benefit that skills they had of any sort, would probably be useful - that almost any talent they had could be adapted to fit the current climate. The women could & should teach the girls basic cooking & laundry skills & Chelsea at any rate is strong enough to wield a hoe. The children can be taught many chores & the adults really HAD to get going. We, he stated firmly, are up by five thirty now, time we need in order to get a good breakfast into us & prepare for the day's work. He added that both sets of neighbors across the road are also up early & working & that from what we're hearing on the radio, it's that sort of effort that is needed to turn things around, individual by individual, group by group, town by town.

    He's right of course, recovery must begin with the labor of the individual & as time passes, by groups with shared interest & needs which can be mutually filled through exchange. Cash money right now may be valuable as fire starter, but that's about it. Most of us had to work hard to keep expressionless faces as the men spoke. Really, for adults who by all accounts had successful lives, they're quite slow to adapt., If they're a sample of what Andy & Joe encountered in town, I fear an even harder winter for many more people than I'd first imagined. Dear me, I wonder what it's going to take to convince more people of the hardships ahead. I know The Outbreak, the disease itself has been very difficult, but the worst may yet be to come.

    I wonder if people have forgotten that other than the daunting task of growing enough food for the coming year, the 'usual' hazards of life await? By that I mean principally weather & natural disasters. Different parts of the country can expect flooding, droughts, hurricanes, tornadoes & God forbid, earthquakes. When such deadly things happen, we're used to FEMA & state organizations coming along to help. Sometimes, depending on the nature, severity & location of the disaster, they may be slow in arriving, but arrive they do, bringing with them emergency supplies of food, water, medicine & temporary housing if that is called for.

    Not only do we count on levels of government & various agencies to help in such times, we depend on them to give us warnings of such events. They're in no position to do so now & many may be hit by severe weather they're not prepared to cope with. Oh farmers are weather-wise; they have to be. Ordinary people though either look out the window to check current conditions or watch TV weather. In many areas, there's a telephone number for forecasts & media is excellent at providing warnings when extreme weather is expected. It's possible over the course of this spring & summer that extreme weather may occur, if fact; judging by odds, it's likely in many parts of the country. For all I know, it's happening now in other areas & we simply have no news of such events. But I was thinking, the only warning some people may get is if they look up & notice violent looking skies, high winds or horrific looking clouds.

    I pray in such cases, that people are ready to take immediate action but fear they may not be. How often do we see Floridians heading to the stores to buy basics within twenty four hours of a hurricane reaching their shores. Some people who've lived there all their lives still have no items put by, no plywood for windows, no flashlights, batteries or even water. Even those who may have had such things put aside may have been forced to use them this winter as they struggled to get through The Outbreak. I'm not sure what sorts of extremes was can get here in the summer & must ask Drew & Tom to make a point of advising us all on this matter. Perhaps Noreen could stop by the radio station tomorrow & suggest that to the two remaining newscasters. I've not heard anything of the sort yet.

    Anne found a way to casually bring up the other neighbors, the ones Tom met that Jack described as 'strange'. We hoped to hear what they meant by strange. It seems Wade Harrison & his family are strange because they're of a religious bent & 'work too hard'. Oh my, they will surely think us strange if that's how they judge people. Anne didn't add much, simply replying that they WERE working hard, but had quite a few people to provide for as well & knew there was not much time left in which to begin the spring work. The other set of neighbors, the Runnings & Merriwethers have not met yet & we simply told them that they're fewer in number but also working very hard to get a start on planting. I hope hearing that their three nearest sets of neighbors are working from sunup to sunset will spur them to thinking about their own situation.

    Overall, I wasn't left with a good impression of this group of neighbors. I haven't even mentioned the children - they were rude, noisy & self-centered. Oh every child is to a certain degree, but these ones expected to be served as soon as they wanted something & they left their things lying wherever it was convenient for them. We had cautioned them to remain quiet around the horses & cattle but they ignored us & after a second warning, Drew was forced to remove them from the area. They didn't like that but we can't afford to have out stock upset. They sent the chickens fluttering all over the henhouse.

    I suspect in spite of everything we told them, in spite of pleadings to start thinking seriously about, then DOING the work that will be required to get through the winter, they're not going to change their way of doing things anytime soon. I fear it may be too late when they change their minds. Drew re-iterated his offer to help them with their tractor, but warned them it had to be done soon. They more or less brushed him off, saying they'd 'think about it'.

    They stayed for supper & this time, Annette stayed with us, as did our two older boys. That of course, meant the twins hovered, doing their best to impress the boys. They certainly chose the wrong ways. Wagging their tails in the teens' faces isn't the way to do it. Oh at their age, they're bound to have certain... reactions, but they've grown up considerably, all our children have under the circumstances. I knew they had but had no idea how mature Annette had become, just adult Mark & Alex were until I saw those two girls. Mind you, they are probably more than a bit on the extreme side. My exposure to teens has been limited to Annette & those nice young volunteers who worked at the cancer treatment center where I went for my chemo. It will be interesting to meet Wade's two young lads & other children with them & those from the other group.

    Now I forgot completely about Anne & Tom's trip to Wade's yesterday. They went along with Alex, to introduce themselves & visit the young, pregnant widow. Anne was very pleased with her visit & enjoyed meeting all of them. Goodness, compared with our guests yesterday, this is a group not afraid of hard work. Anne & Tom, Alex as well, immediately apologized for showing up on a Saturday afternoon, but as Anne mentioned, knowing there was a young lady expecting, she wanted to say hello. Lisa, the young lady in question is due within the next few weeks & warned Anne her first child, a daughter, was born a few weeks early. So as Anne said, it could come any time. Thankfully, they only live a quick jog down the road & babies are rarely in that big of a hurry. Lisa who's 25, lost her husband & daughter & ended up with this group. We'll get the details later I suppose. Anne says she looks healthy & has no qualms about giving birth. Wade's wife Marie felt fairly comfortable with the idea of helping Lisa but was grateful Anne is a nurse. Anne did point out that she hasn't had much recent experience with labor & delivery but that she could still judge how things were coming along. That was good enough for Lisa.

    What was nice was how they let Anne jump right in & help with their supper preps. They apologized for going ahead with their work but as they explained, work & supper at this stage of the game take precedence. Anne understood & Alex & Tom were pleased to go out & work with the men - shared work is always a good way to meet people & our men were very pleased with the men at Wade's. They seemed equally glad to make the acquaintance of our two men & I'm looking forward to meeting them. The group, besides Wade & his family has three other men, all in the early thirties. I believe they're names are Andrew or Andy, 33 & never married; Sean, 31 & also never married & David, 31 & a widower. There are three other teens; a 14 year old girl called Marty, (short for Martine I believe), a 16 year old girl by the name of Jackie & a 15 year old boy by the name of Daniel. Mark & Annette are eager to meet them, especially after Alex reports they're really nice kids & hard workers. Sounds more like our style.

    There are also three children with them - a bit older than ours, a pair of brother 10 & 12, Dusty & Darren & a girl also aged 10, Jen by name. They were all very happy to see new faces & the children especially couldn't wait to show Tom & Alex around the place as Anne spoke with & examined Lisa. Tom noted that before taking he & Alex around, the older boy, Darren looked carefully at Wade, getting permission; good lad! I hope ours are always that careful.

    They have a nice setup. They've also got a tractor, as they discovered a little while ago, but if there's fuel for it, they've not been able to find it. I suspect Drew is going to offer them some of his. It certainly won't go to waste with that crowd! Now for ease, I'll refer to them all as the Harrisons although the others all have different surnames. They have already begun clearing a kitchen garden, the children doing as ours have been, picking rocks & clearing weeds. They have chickens, more than we do & are anxiously awaiting their sow's delivery. Wade doesn't know much about swine & Tom promised to send Jean over as soon as it could be arranged. He feels there are a lot of piglets in there, but wouldn't really know! They also, as mentioned have a team of horses - not draft horses, not pure bred anyway but they seem used to harness & while he was there, Mark looked their horses over & pronounced them in good health. If anything, they've been overfeeding them a bit & Mark was happy to give them some ideas of what they should be eating, specifically how much. He also showed them a few tricks to make harnessing easier & it seems they've figured out ploughing fairly well. They all have the blisters to prove it & Tom says their furrows don't look too shabby!

    Tom asked Drew about giving them a cow & calf as they seem prepared to learn what they need to know to look after it. With children & teens the milk will be put to good use & in time, I'd love to get a piglet or two to fatten up for pork; roasts, hams, bacon... yum! Wade offered us a few of his hens when he heard what happened to ours - offered with no sign of wanting anything in return. Now that's the kind of neighbor we need.

    I'd mentioned Alex came tearing back here not long after he & my Annie & Tom went visiting. As it turns out, the third set of neighbors had suffered an accident. Their young son had fallen out of a tree & they feared he'd broken his arm. He had indeed, which was why Anne sent Alex back. They were surprised to see Mark come galloping up on a horse with a medical kit - reminiscent of the Pony Express, but the speed was appreciated. Luckily for the boy, it seems to be a very simple fracture of the smallest arm bone, just an unfortunate accident. Anne was able to cast it up with plaster bandages she simply dips in water,. Wring them lightly, apply them & bingo! - instant cast!

    Now that is a nice group. They all came over with the boy who'd hurt himself. It's a single family, a husband & wife, three of four surviving children & a young nephew, just a few years older than the children. They're the Greenes. There's Antwone & Keisha, both 29. They have an 11-year-old daughter Latreya, the 7-year-old boy who hurt himself - he calls himself AJ apparently & a 6-year-old, another boy named Sadeem. The nephew is Antwone's youngest brother - a 14-year-old known as Tony. Now I'm not sure what they'd be called today but in my time they'd be known as 'people of color', not the most delicate way to put it I suppose, but Noreen & drew were delighted. As Drew put it, he felt so outnumbered, he felt like the thin side of a double stuffed Oreo. I'll admit it took me while to understand that & if one of MY kids or grandkids had come out with that, the belt would have come out! But I'll allow that Drew can make racial slurs about himself if he's so inclined.

    Anne & Tom said they're a really nice family. They were tenant farmers on a very small plot of land & Antwone worked as a short haul truck driver until all this happened. Keisha's family worked in farm supply so they know something about the business. They've settled on a nice bit of land in case that's not been mentioned & they’ve started their work. They have a radio, although with limited batteries, they feel they can only afford to catch a newscast twice daily. They've been taking notes Anne says & are pretty well set up according to what they told Tom.

    We enjoyed speaking of meeting all these new folks in such a short time period. The Greenes are, as they put it "hard core Baptists" & I'm looking forward to some good Sundays with them. As the crow flies or the horse trots, they're less than a mile away & it will do the young ones good to get together. Tom didn't feel free to speak for all of us, but suggested it might be nice for all the groups to get together Sunday afternoons at each other’s homes in rotation. It will be nice to get out to see different fields & pastures & the kids will love playing together. The teenagers - we have quite a collection of them now, will also find plenty to do. If I count up everyone between the four farms, we have a grand total of fifty-seven people. That divides into twenty-eight adults, eleven teenagers & sixteen children.

    I can see Tom plotting a school now! You can't keep a good teacher down & even if the kids can't come to school, Tom can certainly help parents with lesson plans, monitor the children’s' progress & test them to see what they need to learn next.

    As far as the adults go, I'm sure we have all the skills we need between us. The folks across the street, once they open their eyes are going to need a lot of support; some tough love perhaps, but we can all pull together & do well. And to think, within a few short months, our numbers will increase by four more! This lifts my heart tremendously & proves once again to me that God is good, that through His Grace, life goes on. We can help ourselves, work together & comfort each other when we need strength & encouragement.

    When I looked outside today, I saw soft clouds rolling along in a high altitude wind. Tom tells me it's cold up there, but it doesn't seem possible that such delicate looking constructions of dust, water & light could survive harsh temperatures. The world is indeed full of miracles. I saw a butterfly slowly fluttering amidst the tulips. I'm sure they're eager for more nectar. Birds were singing, building nests & I'll confess to sneaking out some small bits of string - too small to be useful elsewhere. Why not help them too?

    Right now as I "rest", I can hear laughter outdoors as the children bring in wood & water for tonight's supper. We'll say a special prayer for Anne & Noreen who went to town today. I'm sure they're fine, but they'll be missed & we'll be glad to see them return. I promised Sarah I'd help her with some ideas for the baby quilts, so must meet her in my room where the pregnant ladies won't know what we're plotting. So, I'll set this down again & pray for God's continued grace. May he bless us all & give us the inner resources we need.
    More of my thoughts on flu/health matters and the latest news can be found at [url=]The Laboratory[/url].

  23. #183
    Join Date
    May 2001
    Kingston, Ontario, Canada

    evening, 26,04/03

    Well Anne's headed off to town with Noreen & the bed is going to be cold, empty & seem huge until her return. God, it was hard to let her go, it truly was. Now I had no reason to try & talk her out of it. A reasonable man would know it was right his wife get away for a day or three once in a while. I do KNOW this, but I can't convince my heart to agree with my brain. She certainly is smart to want to confer with her colleagues, especially with four women now in our neighborhood expecting these next few months. She has learned much from her reading & practicing her home remedies on the kids small cuts, coughs & sniffles. She understandably wishes to locate & bring back here photos we have of Greg - and we do have quite a few. Still, I'll miss her dreadfully. I can't bear to be more than a few hours away from her anymore. A cataclysm such as The Outbreak certainly has made me appreciate what a lucky man I am.

    We very much enjoyed our outing the other day to visit the Harrisons. They really are a nice bunch of people. Wade appeared to me to be somewhat scary at first but I imagine anybody I first met over the barrel of a loaded rifle is going to strike me that way. No, he's properly cautious & I expect we'll find much to speak of together over time. His family is well mannered, hard working & seemed cheerful enough. The others in that group all seem to have a solid grip on reality, certainly more so than the group directly across the road from us.

    They have a lovely property to work with. The farmhouse is quite a bit smaller than this one & for now, the three single men are sleeping in the barn, up in the loft. I think an 'addition bee' for the farmhouse might be a project to bring up with Drew & Morgan. The loft is not feasible for the winter & they really can't squeeze anyone else in the house. Other than a shortage of living quarters, they have more than enough outbuildings, barns & silos. There's a cowshed in fairly decent repair. A few hours work would make it perfectly suited for a cow or two & accompanying calves. I spoke with Drew & he's inclined to make them the offer. He'll invite one of the folks to come over to 'talk cow', giving them the information they need & letting them see the animals up close. In exchange, he'll be frank in asking for a piglet, once they're born & one is weaned. For now, we can certainly help them out with a few things. Drew will offer them help in planning how many acres to put to the plough as well as the fuel they'll need.

    Mark is going to pop over there tomorrow bringing with him a formal invitation for dinner next Sunday. Annette is going with him. The riding practice will do her well & after they stop in there, they'll go cross-country to the third set of neighbors & check on the little boy. Anne left fairly detailed instructions & promised to send some extra pain medication, in case he was having problems with it hurting a bit too much. She wanted to be sure she had dosages right for his weight & age & he did have enough to carry him through tomorrow. In any case, we encouraged them to come to our place if there were any problems. Jean can help with any problems associated with a simple break & if a problem is more serious, Mark can ride to town to fetch Anne or even the doctor.

    I wonder what the clinic is doing for fast transport for emergencies? I didn't think to tell Anne to ask. It strikes me that if they can find a horse somewhere or are offered one, Mark could be persuaded to teach the doctor & at least one of nurses to stay on a horse in an emergency. A bike is possible in town, but going to outlying farms is a whole different matter. This isn't a question I'd want to dump on the mayor but I can understand the temptation to use him as a problems & solutions clearing house. The poor man's brain must be stuffed full with problems not properly his concern under his former job definition. I hope he & his staff are looking after each other.

    Drew is grumbly today - I think it's the fact that he & Noreen disagreed on her going into town. It's the first serious disagreement I've heard those two have since we arrived. Drew admitted to me he doesn't have any rational basis for his wanting to shout 'NO' either & I understand. We're men, like it or not you ladies; we DO feel a strong need to protect our womenfolk & other dependants. I don't care how old you are, how competent; it must be an old survival thing. What I've learned over the years that Drew obviously hasn't quite grasped yet is that sometimes, there's no arguing with them. As Anne frequently tells me: "I'm NEVER wrong. I may sometimes be unright, even incorrect, but never WRONG!" Okay, a wise man knows when to shut up.

    I enjoyed meeting the second family as well even though the circumstances were far from ideal. The parents were upset, but smart enough to stay calm & were completely & utterly relieved to find a real live nurse at the Harrisons' farm. Thankfully, it was a very simple fracture; painful yet there's every expectation that it will heal up quickly. Darn, now that I think about it, milk & stuff from milk is good for broken bones. I'll have Mark bring some over tomorrow. He'd best tell them about how it will separate if not shaken up & it may not taste as they expect - fresh milk tastes far richer than homogenized, but it will go a long way towards helping him heal. At his age, Anne hopes the cast can come off in 4-5 weeks.

    We've not been to their place yet, obviously. I volunteered to help carry the young lad home, but Sean & Nathan said they'd handle that & thanked us for our help on the medical side. We did make sure we clearly understood how to get to the Greene's though. If we have to go over in a hurry, say at night; we don't want to be stumbling around in the dark.

    Meeting all our neighbors has spurred us on to fresh efforts. Oh not that we weren't working hard already but knowing others are as well, that hard work six days of the week means we can relax for a few hours on the seventh day has brought a burst of vigor. Maybe the season is responsible, but even the kids seem more cheerful. They don't tend to grumble too much about their work, but there was even less in the complaints department today.

    Their main source of 'whining' is the repetitiveness of their chores. Feeding chickens & collecting eggs soon loses its fun ratio & let's not even discuss shoveling out chickensh*t. Horrible smelling stuff & I overheard Jared asking Drew if, you could but deodorant sprays for the house, for cloth, (I think he meant Fabreeze type products), why was it no one had come up with a 'coop cleaner' yet? Reasonable question, I thought! Their other chores, hauling wood & water, measuring odd feed for the horses is also repetitive. And who in their right mind likes doing dishes or doing laundry?

    With laundry, the only thing they seem to enjoy is matching & folding socks. Maxine insists they be matched & folded lest we end up with too many orphan socks. Almost everything else is hung up - that's faster than folding. Morgan placed extra rods in the closets in the kids' rooms at a lower level. "Good" clothing & out of season stuff is hung on the top rod; saves space.

    When they have too much energy, we send them weed pulling around the edge of the porch & drive. It's not strictly necessary but keeps the place from looking too overgrown & gives them plenty of practice for the real thing. The girls are helping now with watering & turning the seedlings upstairs & Carol is aiding Maxine these next few days with the herb garden. All the kids are learning to groom, saddle & bridle the ponies & Mark is explaining the fine art of mucking out the stalls without doing a total bedding change. Ashley freaked out when she found a fat spider in the corner of the feed room & was set to kill it. Annette isn't fond of spiders either but she pointed out to Ashley that spiders prevent a worse insect from bothering the horse - flies.

    Yes, we're soon going to see insects, lots of them. Mosquitoes, a few early ones, have been spotted & with all the water about, this may be a bad year for them. Flies are going to be plentiful, as unfortunately, there is a lot of dead still lying around. Now that's an assumption but I don't think I'm wrong. People may have been stricken as they were fleeing & who knows where they may have tried to take shelter when they were too ill to move or seek help? I worry about scavengers too, feral dogs, cats, coyotes & birds. Within a month or so, they'll run out of 'food' & then what? The dogs, I worry about more than anything else. Many will have little or no fear of man & will pose a danger we're not accustomed to. They will no doubt no doubt try & go after the calves & foals - another reason to have people & dogs spending the night out near the animals.

    It was another nice, spring day & we took advantage of it. Drew tells me he's almost finished ploughing up the land he wants us to plant this year. I walked out to the fields earlier & it's impressive & daunting. That is a LOT of land to plant & try to keep reasonably weed-free. It's early yet for planting. Drew says we could still get snow & some recent nights have been close to the freezing point. The women are lucky the herb garden is sheltered & much of the area we're planting in readily available crops also benefits from windbreaks.

    We took a chance & planted a large area in peas today - well large I suppose for the kids who were the ones doing the planting. They also started some broccoli, parsnips, (yech!), & cabbage. Drew gave Sam a couple of sheets of paper, explaining how far apart to plant seeds, how much they needed to be covered up, the basics & turned him loose to supervise the kids. All told, about half an acre was planted & Drew said we'll plant about that amount of land weekly for the next few weeks, until he's pretty sure we're past the last frost date. Funny, I was nervous & excited watching seeds going into the ground. Drew has plenty of seed, but all that work. I'd hate for stuff to start sprouting then be wiped out by a hard frost.

    We used the horses today to haul rocks to the back fence lines. Drew wants to get those leaning fence posts propped up properly as quickly as possible. That is hard work, let me tell you. It's not the hauling so much; the horses provide the labor there. Once you arrive though, it's not a matter of simply stacking rocks around fence posts. Some had leaned so far over; they'd moved the ground to a significant degree. With those, we have to force back the posts & we couldn't always use horses for that, then jam in rocks, pound them in & keep going until the posts were straight & holding steady. I'll be stiff tomorrow.

    My mind is easing some when it comes to Andy & Joe. They looked awful coming back from town, pale, tired & mentally as stressed as I ever want to see anyone this side of a locked psychiatric ward. They had little appetite & that persisted for days. No wonder; they've seen awful things. They're eating & sleeping fairly well again, as are Sam & max. Time hasn't helped a whole lot yet when it comes to the idea of dealing with Greg's death. It's too early, feelings still too raw. We al find ourselves coming up with sudden memories of him at the oddest times. I'll overhear Sammy say something & think to myself: "Greg would have said it that way!" I'm sure it's much the same for his parents.

    I'm less worried about Annette. I know she's had a chance to speak to Jake & Andy about what she did & how she felt. Knowing they'd had some difficult situations of their own to deal with must have made it easier for her to speak with them. I've passed by the site where we buried that unfortunate man a few times & noticed some fresh tulips there. I think Annette must have put them there. Morgan is about finished a wooden cross for that grave & is finishing work on a wooden marker for Greg's grave. He'll put up a little picket fence around Greg's grave & plant some of Maxine's favorite flowers there too as well as put up a little bench.

    Hard to believe it's been four months since all this began. I feel like we've lived a lifetime in that period. We went from preparing for a normal Christmas holiday to stunned shock, to fear as we've never known it & since then, have run the gamut of emotions. It's hard to take anything matter of factly anymore. Life seems more... intense is the word I'm looking for I think. I find myself much more aware of what I do every day. That makes sense as I have little time to fritter away. Every activity is deliberate, much thought over & planned. I have to be much more aware of the potential effects of my actions. I wonder if others in the area & across the country feel the same? I imagine they do.

    Right now, they probably feel as fatigued as I find myself. That being said, time I went to get ready as I'm on duty with Jake tonight. Man, it's going to be a long night especially knowing there's loads of work waiting for me tomorrow.
    More of my thoughts on flu/health matters and the latest news can be found at [url=]The Laboratory[/url].

  24. #184
    Join Date
    May 2001
    Kingston, Ontario, Canada

    evening, 27/04/03

    Well it's Morgan back again for another try at this journal stuff. Tom almost had to kick me in the behind to get me to do this. I told him I wasn't the worlds best speller, hoping he'd let me off. No such luck. He said he's not going to be correcting this but the practice would do me good. He's a tough teacher. He sure has Mark & me working hard, the stinker! I thought being as he's an adult & all; he'd cut me some slack. Wrong. He said if I wanted to learn, wanted to improve my formal learning, I'd best be as ready to work as any of his students have to be. Miserable old bugger! Now I know I shouldn't say that as who knows who'll be reading this in future but there's nothing wrong with a little griping once in a while, is there?

    And it's true; I brought this on myself. I've always admired those with a good education & regret the years I wasted acting the fool. Getting my GED as one thing but it didn't really satisfy me. Tom is making me work, making me think hard but with Mark doing the same work, it's a whole different story. Tom has us talking together about what we're reading as well as working on different assignments. That's working out well. Mark's ideas are different from mine & I have some knowledge he doesn't. Makes me a feel a bit better about not having a bunch of fancy letters after my name. I DO know some things & Mark seems to appreciate that. Maybe they're right - life itself can be an education. Still, it's nice to finally be getting some proper 'book learning' through Tom. If he can put me through some English, both American & English literature & some history, maybe I can get the other stuff from other adults around here. I'm really poor in math. Oh I can measure with the best of them & do the basics, but I wouldn't mind learning more. I barely squeaked through the algebra I needed for my GED; geometry was easy but algebra? Awful stuff. I was lucky I could memorize because I really didn't understand it.

    Now there is stuff I do know well. I've been fooling around with botany - helps me with my gardening & so I've got some basic science. I love rocks, so have learned a bit of geology. I bet if we all put our heads together, we'd find we have a pretty fancy education between all of us together. We have common sense, lots of it & that's more important these days.

    It's my turn tonight to do guard duty, along with Sarah. I'll be glad to work with that fine young lady. Now if you want to talk about common sense, you don't need to look any farther than Sarah. I find myself hoping young Andy will take a shine to her. He could sure do a lot worse. She's bright as a whip, practical & doesn't run from work. She's not afraid to get dirty, but cleans up well - not at all hard on the eyes & probably more so because those sorts of things don't seem to matter to her. She's done a great job with those dogs of her dad's. I don't know much about sled dogs except that they need a firm hand & she gives them that without being mean. Tonight we'll use two of them, as she wants to try out two of the younger ones, see if they have any sense for guarding property & cattle. If they do, she'll figure that out right quick.

    It's supposed to be a fine night, clear & warm enough to be comfortable. There's little moon left, so we should get a good look at the stars. I found a star chart in one of Tom's books & want to take it out later & see if I can match it up to the heavens. It's a few years old, the chart is, but I don't imagine stars change their positions that fast. Oh we won't be ignoring our job, but we can sneak a few minutes to check the stars & see how many we can name.

    The last two guard teams have worked out a routine. They head out at about ten or eleven, depending on how early everyone else goes to bed. After doing a head count of the kids - can't be too careful there; they make sure all lanterns are out & the fires are either out or well banked. We only keep one fire going through the night now with just enough coals to make it easy to get burning the next morning & that's the old wood stove in the kitchen. Thank the Lord for spring.

    We go out & collect whatever dog or dogs we're using in tonight's case, then check the barns. All the cattle & horses are out now & before dark someone does an exact count of the horses & rough count of the cattle. We've also made sure the fences are fine before dark & by nightfall, the barns are closed up & checked for any small fires or other hazards. Fire's not really a concern right now, but it's a good habit to get into. We walk down the drive to the road, then stand there quietly for several minutes, simply listening. The Harrisons have a dog & if we were to hear her barking, we'd be extra cautious. She's a guard dog & is trained not to bark at rabbits or any sound other than those indicating DANGER. Wade is going to give Sarah some tips on guard dog training later on, I hope. We walk the road along the fence in either direction, just checking for anything obviously out of the way, then cut into the pasture near the property line on the east side. We walk along the fence there until we come to the junction of fences. We walk back north along that fence line, almost as far as the swamp - not too close though because it can be treacherous at night. Again, we walk quietly, stopping & listening frequently. Dogs are turned loose at this point. I figure if they don't bark a specific warning, they might at least warn us of anything unusual. We walk back west for almost a mile, periodically cutting into the pastures, trying to sight the cattle. They're always brought back to the home pasture at night anyway & we've started chaining up some of the dogs just inside the pasture fence line that way. We're hoping it will discourage anyone who makes it that far.

    We conclude our patrol by walking the length of the north fence, or actually just inside the wood line; about ten yards in or so. At least once during the night, we come in at the back of the woods. At the back of that bit of acreage, there's a slight rise up to the woods. If you do it just right, you get into the woods without being spotted. Now if we're in the woods & looking back, that's a disadvantage, but if we're trying to make sure no one is in there, it works to our advantage. Most of our night is spent in & around the farmyard itself. When we're not in the yard, we're walking the perimeter of the home pasture, making sure nothing disturbs the cattle. As well as human varmints, we have to watch for coyotes & feral dogs.

    I'll have to ask Sarah about the wisdom of letting the dogs loose with so many possible feral dogs out there. I'd hate for one of her lovely animals to get injured or worse. It's also possible that one of her two bitches could end up pregnant by an unknown dog. You never know - some mixes are downright dangerous & if she chooses to breed one of her dogs, I'm sure she'd rather be the one to pick out the 'dad'. She's mentioned to me that crossbred huskies, Siberian Huskies & Siberian crossbreeds are what most of hers are have to be bred very carefully. Put with the wrong dog & you can end up with a right vicious animal.

    I should write a little about our day. We're not quite ready to get into the main planting yet. Drew says picking your time is always a crap shoot, but this year it's never seemed so vital. I can sure understand him thinking that way. Until Drew decides it's time for planting, we're occupying ourselves making sure we're ready & messing around with the kitchen garden. There are still some things we can risk planting, in small quantities & we've been doing that. I should say, the kids have been supervised by the adults in turns. They've been busy putting in peas, onions, beets, parsnips, broccoli, kale, collard, leeks & spinach. Some of those I'm not fond of at all, but maybe I should give them another chance. Noreen tells me parsnip doesn't have to be as I remember it, bitter & tough. She picks hers while they're small & sweet & has a trick of adding some maple syrup & mashing them in with other things, including some onion juice. Onion juice? I haven't a clue what that is, unless it's literally squeezed onions.

    The kids are funny to watch. Each has been given the responsibility for one or more of these crops & Tom has asked them to keep notes on how things go. They've each written down what they planted, how far apart the seeds or sets are & for now, every few days they'll check to see if they're growing yet. Knowing kids are impatient to see something happening, I took a few old windows & made some cold frames for them. I got them to start some leaf lettuce & radishes in those. They'll come up fast & we can be eating salad in a week. Noreen has a couple of patches of chives coming up & a good trimming won’t hurt them.

    Cold frames. Now that's something I wish I'd thought of sooner. There have to be dozens of old buildings & sheds here, abandoned & of not much use for people right now. If I can take the windows & find some good pieces of wood, I can make some hinged cold frames. I was reading about something done in Europe although I've not seen it here much. If you add some relatively fresh manure to the bottom of the frame, it really heats up the soil & plants come up even faster. Mind you, I'd want anything growing in that well washed, but washed & well cooked & it would go down a treat.

    Because we're not doing much planting yet, we've started moving manure to locations closer to where it will be used. Drew wants to use it as mulch over potatoes & other crops. It will serve to keep weeds out, will fertilize the plants & protect from water loss. That's a great idea in theory but will make for stinky fields! Hey, I'm a city boy really & while I'm used to sewage smells, farm odors are a bit out of my experience.

    Drew is feeling cautiously optimistic at this point. We have lots of ground water & I can't put together watertight barrels to store water fast enough for his liking. He's always worried about water he says as there's no possibility of irrigating this year, not properly. Crops will have to fend for themselves if we get a real dry spell. Oh we can keep the kitchen garden going & some of the potato fields but there's no way on God's green earth we can keep more than that properly moist.

    Drew's finished the ploughing now. He said he could do more, but realistically we have more work than we can handle this summer, looking after it all. Planting is going to be interesting. Some stuff we can just toss out in the fields - broadcast is the term, I think. Other things are best planted properly, corn, potatoes & other things I don't have a clue about. Drew says he'll teach us what we need know in good time. I suspect a lot of it he'll be learning just ahead of us! After all, modern farming practices usually don't involve a whole lot of hand planting. But that's what we have to do, so we'll do just that.

    I wonder how long it takes to say - plant an acre of corn? I guess first I'd best find out how far apart seeds have to be planted, how deeply & what they need after that. There might be a way to do this to make it go more quickly. I'm going to try & make the equivalent of bulb planters. I can fashion some thin metal, tin or something into short tubes with a handle, like a shovel handle. A child could then stick in the dirt, twist & pull out a plug of dirt, drop in the corn seed, then put the plug of soil right back in there. I don't think we'd need to mark where the seed goes, just have to make sure no one or nothing tramples over those fields. I'll check with Drew.

    There's not a whole lot I know about farming or even gardening on a large scale. I was an orchid grower, competitions & I dabbled in some other exotic plants - the kids you have to baby half to death to get to do well. Drew says with farming, it's most often a case of plant, then cross your fingers & pray. We won't be spraying insecticides or anything against weeds, so for a time, until the plants are high enough to fend for themselves, there will be a lot of hand weeding. Talk about new meanings for the term 'stoop & scoop'.

    The women in town are on our minds of course. We know they're fine. During the lunchtime newscast, the young man doing the news mentioned they were in town & enjoying their visit. That was an unexpected treat. We knew of course that they'd arrived in town safely - after all they hadn't gone alone. Alex & Sam accompanied them & will pick them up tomorrow shortly after lunch. When they brought the women in, the brought back loads of coarse salt for pickling, several cases of canning jars, lids & seals & as many resealable plastic bags as they could into the wagon, their pockets & backpacks. Sam & Anne spent some time at the house & Sam brought back the photos. He was so happy to have them as was Maxine. On their next trip, they're taking two teams & Jean will go as will Mark. They have found quite a lot of cases of jars for canning & want to get as many back as they can, as well as miscellaneous pickling spices.

    I can't believe we've almost reached the end of April. Days have been very busy & individually long, but I'm still surprised to find myself in spring. Events, some of them seem blurred now, perhaps a kindness from God. I don't want to have to relive a great many of the early days & I'm sure that applies to most here. They were bad enough at the time & the passage of time won't make them any easier to bear; not this early anyhow.

    God help us all & He has... when I think of all that's happened in four short months. We were all simply living normal lives, last minute Christmas shopping, decorating trees & houses, baking, wrapping presents & simply doing what we're all used to doing. Then we were sucker punched. Not only The Outbreak but the terrible retribution our President felt was needed. I haven't properly thought that one through yet - not sure I'm ready to but no matter how you feel about that issue it was a Great & Terrible decision to make with unbelievable consequences on so many levels for so many.

    We've all lost loved ones, even Tom & his family. Oh they didn't lose immediate family to the disease, but to lose Greg the way they did just when things were starting to look up was utterly gut-wrenching for all of his. He was a sweet kid, the little I knew of him & I know his family misses him so very badly. I've got to get his grave marker finished, but I don't want to mess that up - it's too important.

    Drew & Annette - they had a terrible scare & that poor little girl to have to shoot that man the way she did. I think she's coming to terms with it; at least I hope she is. She did the best she could at the time & probably was smarter about it than I would have been. I'm making a marker for that man's gravesite too & before I tell anyone that, I'm going to take Miss Annette for a walk & talk it over with her. She might want us to do a service for him, read some words from the Bible over his grave & pray for him & his.

    Joe & Jake were in the thick of it & afterwards, just recently, Andy & Joe did a terrible but vital job. Anne's had to deal with a lot, what with Greg dying on her watch so to speak, the little neighbor boy being inflicted with the same injury & facing four women locally gonna be mommas really soon.

    The kiddies - I don't know how children that age do it. They're a lot tougher than we give them credit for & I know they cry at night when they think so one hears them. I try to give them hugs when they fly by - kids NEED hugs, often.

    No, this hasn't been easy at all for any of us. We have a lot of grieving left to do, a hell of a lot of work these next 6 or 7 months, then... who knows. Now crikes, it's almost eleven. I need to visit the outhouse before Sarah comes looking for me.
    More of my thoughts on flu/health matters and the latest news can be found at [url=]The Laboratory[/url].

  25. #185
    Join Date
    May 2001
    Kingston, Ontario, Canada

    evening, 27/04/03

    I'm on duty with Morgan tonight & with only about two hours to go, don't dare lie down. Once I'm asleep, I'm ASLEEP & don't talk to me if you have to wake me up. I'm tired, it was a long day, but not so tired that I'm not looking forward to a change in routine tonight. If Morgan can do it, so can I. The man is twice my age & he said he thinks it's going to be a "fun" night. Maybe I should have told him I'm a bit scared of the dark - seriously, I am. I never outgrew that from childhood. Oh I can go out in the dark, but my heart just pounds. And oh man, I HATE going out there alone.

    We sure are getting the work down to a routine now which is good. It's taking us less time, which means that when we start planting, we'll have more time to do that. I wish we had a 'planting fairy' or something to help us with the work we have coming our way. But that's not going to happen, no matter how hard I squeeze my eyes shut & wish. Listen to me, I sound like one of the kids.

    They're actually looking forward to planting. Well, they're lower to the ground & far more flexible than we are. They won't have stiff backs from bending over & sticking seeds in the ground for hours on end. I probably will & there's got to be a way to do it without bending too much. To hell with it, I'll just scoot along the ground on my butt, maybe wear a plastic bag over my jeans. I can see us now, all hunched over in the sun, (gotta remember to wear sunscreen or I'll end up with 'lobster nose) & scrabbling around the dirt like seagulls in a landfill. Maybe once things get boring - maybe ten minutes? - we could have planting races. Um, maybe that's not a good idea. I can see some of the kids cheating, not planting their seeds or spacing them too far apart. I suggested to Drew that he cut some sticks about eighteen inches long; that's the spacing for corn. Place your stick down, plant your seed & cover it, move the stick up & keep going... forever!

    We'll plant a fair bit of corn. It can be canned, frozen, dried, ground - not fond of cornmeal but it's handy as a filler & I LOVE an end of summer corn roast. Drew said he's got several varieties of corn, maturing at different times, so we won't be stuck doing corn for a month of Sundays. He has several varieties of most seeds. What he didn't have he 'obtained' at the supply store. He's worried that the usual practice of planting only one or two varieties could be a real problem if we get pests or rotten weather or something. This way he thinks, we should get something of every kind of plant we try & grow.

    I'm just happy we don't have to be planting flax, cotton & raising sheep to make our own cloth. Now THAT is a little too primitive for me. I was looking at a book Noreen had, one that showed how looms were put together, threaded & operated. Lord love a duck, it looks COMPLICATED! I'll stick with designing, pattern making & sewing thank you very much. That can get complicated enough.

    I wish we had a bit more variety with our livestock. We're okay with the cattle & chickens but a few sheep would be nice & a couple of pigs. I love roast pork & ham would be outstanding. Maybe some time during the summer we can trade some cattle for these animals. Jean said she knows enough of the basics to care for them; heck even a goat wouldn't be bad & what we don't know, we'll sure be motivated to learn quickly. Drew said he has no intentions of keeping all the cattle. Growing enough food for them is just not possible, even if we cut all the hay we can. How we're going to do that is a mystery. We have no cutter that's operable by hand & we may have to "raid" a museum or something like that to get scythes. Boy, what I wouldn't do for a half decent blacksmith right now. Betcha one could earn his way & still have more work than they could handle. There has to be something we could adapt to the job - I'm just not familiar enough with machinery to come up with something. I'll pass that on to the guys.

    I sure miss my two dogs. Oh we had too many, but to lose them that way hurts like hell. It seems so senseless & I have no idea what set them off. Dad always warned me that they're more than half-wild at times & I sure learned that the hard way. Thank God for Jean. She was a lot more objective than I was & knew they wouldn't make it. She made sure that what had to be done was done. I stayed with them, I had to; they're my responsibility. I'm being more careful now, now taking their behavior for granted.

    I'm not exactly what I'd call at loose ends right now, but there's not that much work with the dogs, the other stock don't need help or care from me & the women, (Cindy & Louise), have the house under control. I've been sneaking some time to work on some baby clothes & the quilts for the new babies. I LOVE Morgan's cradles. Cindy & Louise will bawl their eyes out when they see them, I know they will. He's put so much time into them & I'm not sure when or how he's managed that without being 'caught'. I hope he plans to do a bit on them tonight. He's almost got them completed now, has to finish a bit of carving, varnish them after assembling them, then we can put together the bedding.

    The basic quilt hasn't been hard. I have the batting & a lovely cream colored basic material to work with. I've already designed some squares for each quilt & am cutting & stitching like mad. Maybe Annette can sketch them for the journal after I've finished them. They're a lot of work, but so are babies & these will certainly have lots of eager aunts & uncles. That's good because we all need to see some real live new humans around here & it will do the kids a world of good to see what's involved with babies. It will do our teens good, not that our three would be that stupid but ya never know. It's spring & hormones are hormones, especially at that age. I bet those will be spoiled babies! They'll be chasing chickens before we know it.

    I spent some time while I was sewing catching up on the news. Locally, there's not a whole lot terribly new. A new group showed up, a real convoy of people - about 30 of them according to the radio. If you can believe it, they had BUSSES & enough fuel to get here. I'm not sure how they managed to find the gas - they haven't said much, but it looks as though they've been planning this for a while. There were 5 busses & they were smart enough to split their gear among all four. They started with 6, but lost 2 in the trip. It took them 6 days to get here from Chicago & they tell us not to expect anyone else - as far as they know, from that area. The group consists of three families & strays who decided to come along.

    They were smart about this; planned carefully over the winter. They had the vehicles hidden in a garage somewhere & I think a lot of gas siphoning went on over the months they were waiting. They brought tons of canned food, well not tons but you know what I mean; seeds, tools & loads of 'how to' books. They're resting in town for a day or two, then will settle on a farm, not sure where. The best news is... one of them is a vet! Jean was delighted; I thought she'd run into town right there & then. The rest are a mixed lot but only four children are among them. The adults have worked as a pilot, el train driver, airline attendant, what else, let me see... stock broker, stockyard workers - two of those, a couple of housewives, a writer, (Stephen King type stuff I think they said) 7 TWO metal workers, a tool & die type - whatever it is they do exactly & a welder.

    Chicago is toast to put it bluntly. What's left of the city, what hasn't burned or been looted looks like a war zone. The one man speaking for the group had a tough time talking about it. Being a city, there's little room to bury the dead & the stench is becoming grim. Rats & other vermin are everywhere & it's been described as a hellhole. Fires continue to burn & some are spreading. There are people alive there, but not many they've seen & most they did encounter also had plans to leave or were in the process of getting out. Most are heading farther south. They don't want to do an Illinois winter again. This group figures most won’t make it. They're going anyway they can, by bike, on foot, a few have horses, but they may not have time to get too far before winter. One group spoke of flying out - they have access to a plane, figure they can get it fueled for at least one trip out & have a man who claims he can fly it. Where they're going to land is anyone’s guess.

    Nope, me I'm happy to be right where I am. Folks here are great & I'm comfortable with them. We work well together & other then rare & minor squabbles, we get along well. The neighbors seem okay, some better than okay & I'm already being teased, Jean too, about the three single guys at the Harrisons. Yeah, like I've got time for "courting" as MT puts it! Hey if some guy wants to flirt while helping me plant corn or cut hay cool, but he'd better not get in the way of anything sharp I'm carrying. I can only concentrate on one thing at a time.

    More local news... individuals are increasingly coming together to form groups & those groups are getting busy now as the weather warms. The message is constantly repeated now - you have to look after yourself & the best way to do that right now is to start preparing a large garden. Some farmers are accepting people as laborers, boarders; all kinds of different arrangements are being made between people. Other farmers are providing seed, bringing it to City Hall where it can be distributed.

    There's an unconfirmed report of several cases of smallpox in town, on the west side, but that hasn't been confirmed yet. We're not too worried about that here, not for ourselves or the other groups who've all had exposures & come through fine. What's worrying now is a minor outbreak of what seems to be flu in the area. Several people have come down with it & the doctor says he can't be sure, but it's nastier than a cold by a good margin. What's scary about that of course is that flu can & often dos initially look like early smallpox signs. For a few days, until a person DOESN'T break with pox, no one can be sure. The doctor must be going crazy with no labs available to him.

    He's worried now about accidents on the farms & is asking people to be extra careful if they have young children. It doesn't take much; a shovel accidentally hits a foot & causes a cut that infects. Now you have a sick person & maybe no antibiotics. The clinic doesn't have much in the way of medications right now, especially antibiotics & I'm sure glad Anne went there for a few days. She'd copied lots of information about what plants & herbs, what old treatments seem based on solid science & hopes the clinic can use the information. I'm sure they can.

    With some more people having arrived, we of course are getting news from other regions. Much of it sounds too unreal to be true, but who can tell? I remember hearing, early on in the crisis that many nuclear power plants had been shut down for safety. A couple of the members of the group who arrived by bus swear they heard that a couple of reactors had melted down along the east coast somewhere. I hope that's just a wild rumor - we have no way of knowing.

    While there has been some travel, most of it is people trying to migrate to different areas - most heading south. Some people from Canada have been headed south, how far they can get is another question. A single person or a small group of young & strong people travelling light can probably get a good distance, but it will soon be time to stop & get growing. Overseas remains a big question mark. The last we reliably heard, every country had been hit & hit hard. But without reliable communications, we may not know more than that for a long time. I know our navy had ships at sea as well as submarines. They're probably in a better position to know what's happening than we are. They've probably sailed close enough to other nations' shores. What worries me is what happens when they run out of food - how so they get more? Were sailors vaccinated or did some ships succumb to the disease? I wonder if we'll ever know?

    We've gone from being able to get almost instant information about any part of the world we care to to not knowing what's happening 20 miles away. That feels so strange & somehow I find that threatening. I find myself worrying about someone wanting to take revenge on us for the bomb we dropped but who would do that? It would be pointless anyway, wouldn't it? We're hurting badly enough as it is & I guess everyone else left alive has the same concerns we do - staying alive.

    Mark & Annette rode over to the Greenes' place today to check on their son. He's doing great. Annette says he hurts, but his arm looks good. It's not blue or cold or any of the things Anne said we should be checking for, so that's good. They have a nice place over there & everyone is old enough to work. Mark says they're shoveling & hoeing like mad, clearing up some land close to the house to plant. They were really happy to get the milk & we also sent them a dozen or so eggs. The Harrisons are going to give them a couple of laying hens too. We're hoping as our eggs start hatching, we get a few roosters. The Harrisons don't have one & we're down to only one of them.

    We finally used up the last of the frozen meat & just in time. The last of our ice has pretty much melted & Cindy said she was getting nervous about what was left. We have some frozen vegetables that are on the verge of going bad & Mark is going to bring some to the Harrisons & Greenes tomorrow. What they can't use, the Harrisons can feed to the pigs. Sam, Joe & Andy took the kids fishing today & brought home a mess of catfish. Boy, after months of meat, did fish ever taste GOOD! I'm not sure what we're going to do for meat for the next bit. We have a fair bit of canned meat, but that won't last forever. I think Drew plans to slaughter one of the cows this week - one of the older ones who didn't calve this year. I wish it were later in the summer. It might be risky in terms of health, but we could shoot rabbits or something. This early though, they have babies & shooting adults might mean losing more of the young ones than we could afford later. I don't know what the men have in mind.

    Well it's getting on to guard duty time. I'd better get the coffee on for later. We're going to need lots tonight!
    More of my thoughts on flu/health matters and the latest news can be found at [url=]The Laboratory[/url].

  26. #186
    Join Date
    May 2001
    Kingston, Ontario, Canada

    evening, 29/04/03

    Oh it's good to be home, even though our time in town seemed too short. Noreen had just as good a time as I did & we both feel we learned so much & have so much to share with everyone. Mark & Jake came to get us, as did Sarah. I'm glad they brought all three wagons Morgan has cobbled together as we had quite a few things to bring home. Noreen located lots of cases of canning jars & related supplies & save for one case we dropped, everything made it back safely. We hope now, between all those jars & plastic bags that we have enough of what we need to can an awful lot of what we harvest. We also brought back a lot of tough fabric - denim & some burlap type stuff so we can sew together sacks to store grain. I'm not sure how we're going to grind it when we need it, but we can worry about that later. First, we have to plant & harvest it.

    I stopped first at our place - it felt so strange to be back there & se it empty & full of dust. I don't know how it got so dusty - Tom & Sam made sure they sealed up everything as best they could but dust always finds a way. I found my photo albums & sent back quite a number with Sam. He was delighted with the pictures we had of Greg & I'm pleased I found them. I also brought home others, wedding pictures & other momentoes. No one has been near our place but other homes nearer to downtown have been occupied. I'm not sure how I would have felt if anyone had moved into our home! It's a bit far from downtown & not close enough to unoccupied farmland to attract anyone though & in any case, we stripped out most of what is useful as we left.

    Noreen hadn't been here in years & I invited her to walk through & see if we'd missed anything which could be useful - fresh eyes are sometimes helpful that way. She didn't see anything she thought we needed to grab & bring back immediately but would like to bring back the curtains at some point. I'm not sure why other than some of hers & getting pretty old & worn. I doubt mine would fit, but we can always cut them down.

    Before we split up, we dropped by City Hall. Andy was right; the body disposal teams look like they're living an ongoing nightmare. It seems they've almost finished though & I'm sure they'll be delighted & relieved to get back to normal. The mayor looks exhausted, poor man. His primary assistant who's worked here for a good 25 years is trying to convince him the town won't fall apart if he takes a break for a day or two. He's not taken more than a few hours off at any one time since this all began & I fear for his health.

    He was glad to see us, very glad as we're a good, strong group, our work is well under way & he said we're 'an inspiration' to him & his staff! Funny, I don't feel much like an inspiration, just an older woman trying to do her best, a woman who lately feels tired all the time. Oh I don't think I'm working that hard. Maybe it's just reaction to everything that's happened, but no matter how well I sleep - & I sleep very well indeed. I always seem to be just that little bit more tired than I'm used to being.

    The town has just over 1200 people here now - still. We had that new group from Chicago arrive, but another 20 or so decided to leave, mainly people who aren't from this area. I wish them luck as I really don't think they're going to find conditions any easier no matter where they go. They were convinced that if they headed towards one of the cities, they'd have a better chance of getting help. They're reasoning is that any government help available is likely to be focused on the cities. That would make sense - if any help was coming from anywhere, but no one I spoke with had any such thoughts. A government can wish to provide help, but it needs the material & manpower & that simply isn't available.

    I spent most of my time at the medical clinic. They're pretty busy these days. People are coming in one or two at a time with all sorts of problems. Many need stitches as they accidentally cut themselves fumbling around doing jobs they're not used to doing. We saw several cases of either really bad head colds or perhaps flu & yes, there ARE a few cases of smallpox on the other side of town. We're not sure where it came from, perhaps bodies which hadn't been disposed of yet, but little can be done for them other than to offer the same advice that's been given over & over. We saw two cases of food poisoning, fortunately nothing more serious than really nasty stomach & intestinal symptoms. It's understandable. As people find small stashes of food squirreled away, often they eat it up without checking to see that it's safe or they don't cook it properly. That's hard to do without fuel anyway & is adding to problems.

    We saw two rat bites too. In both cases, people were bitten while asleep. The doctor, Mike Hearty, is worried about that. He says more & more rats are being seen & with most bodies now disposed of, they're looking for food & are very bold. They don't think twice about taking a good chomp of someone bitten & he worries about infections & rabies.

    The town will also have to figure out a way to deal with sewage. Many people are simply dumping that sort of waste out at the back of their properties & not necessarily disposing of it safely. Fecal contaminants can get into the ground water, into streams & ponds & it's going to be hard to get a lot of that water safe for drinking. I'm sure glad we have lots of bleach & water purification tablets at our place. We have lots of firewood too & can boil the stuff to death if we have to.

    Yesterday evening, a group of about six children came in, the oldest being about twelve, the youngest four. They were worried about the four-year-old, who had quite a fever. Poor things, they're hungry & filthy but want no part of the orphanage. There's some sort of silly urban legend out there among the street kids about how the orphanage only wants kids in order to provide cheap slave labor for farms. I hardly think that's the case, but it doesn't take much for stories like this to get started & to spread. About all we could do was give the little girl some fluids & encourage all of them to get cleaned up. They refused to tell us where they're living & although they look pretty skinny, they tell us they have food & are fine. What can we do? There's little point in trying to force them to go to the orphanage or anywhere else. They'd probably simply run away & there's no one with time to chase down any child not wanting to go to or stay where the orphans have been gathered.

    The medical staff has conferred fairly extensively with the mayor, trying to see how citizens break down in terms of age, sex & any medical conditions they may have. The split as far as they've determined, is pretty close to 50 - 50 among men & women. Of the twelve hundred or so people left, about 100 are over the age of sixty, perhaps two hundred are under the age of 5, another 300 are between 5 & 12 & the remaining are between 12 & 60. That's good as it means half at least are of an age to work. Many of the older people are healthy & some of those under twelve can work a fair bit as well.

    Now in terms of health. Most here either survived smallpox or never contracted it. Some apparently were never exposed, so we could see more cases. Perhaps 300 or so caught & survived the illness & of those we have about 40 or so who have been left blind. Unfortunately, most of those are children & most of those are at the orphange. What is to become of them long term is anyone's guess. The few adults able to care for the children have a lot on their plate & they don't have the knowledge or skills to teach these kids to cope with independent life.

    A number of remaining people have serious & chronic medical conditions, some pre-dating The Outbreak & others the result of the disease. Several people have kidney problems & without dialysis machines, without specific medications & the ability to monitor levels of certain blood factors, we're going to lose them. That is so damned hard to think about. A lot of illnesses & conditions we could treat, assuming we had the methods to conduct the tests & the medications for treatment we could deal with, but not any more. We have a number of diabetics who don't have much insulin left & unless we stumble upon a hidden cache of various forms of insulin, they're going to die.

    By the end of summer, I think pretty much anyone who's lives depend on medication are going to be gone, unless they happen to have a large stock of it & that doesn’t apply to more than a few people we know. I know mother needs her nitro although she's not had many angina attacks lately. I worry about her cancer coming back, but there's nothing we can do about that that. She has spoken to me about it & told me that all she expects from me if it comes to that is that I do my best to keep her comfortable & painfree as long as possible. I don't even want to think about it.

    Then there's Tom; we never were able to get an EKG done of course & although I'm pretty sure his heart attack was very minor, it scares me to death not knowing for sure. I'm always thinking about Greg too. My head tells me there was nothing I could have done, but my heart still thinks I'm somehow responsible. I'm scared to death that the boy I treated the other day develops problems. That's highly unlikely, but my heart will be in my throat for a few more days. Annette & Mark both assured me that he's doing fine, but I really need to see him for myself.

    I was lucky, VERY lucky while I was in town. I'd been at the clinic about 5 or 6 hours, chatting up the staff, checking out their setup which I will talk about in a bit & just trading information & news type stuff when a young man came racing in. Yup! His wife was in active labor, had been laboring for about 8 or so hours. He was as nervous as anything & I was absolutely delighted. What with four women around here to help have babies, this couldn't have come at a better time. It was a good fifteen-minute walk, even with the husband trying to turn it into a five-minute walk.

    We got to their chosen home, a tiny little converted cottage with two bedrooms & there we found a rather pale, sweating young lady working very hard to stay calm. She was still more excited than hurting. This is a very young couple, I don't think either of them are more than twenty, but they seemed pretty much on the ball. Their home is warm, clean & they aren't short of necessities. 'Dad' has been working hard to make sure they have food, clean water or the methods to make sure water is clean, has been stocking up on baby supplies & they've turned the second bedroom into a darling nursery. The small front room was littered with baby books, including most of the ones I'd recommend to any new mom.

    The doctor is great - old enough to look experienced & reassure older patients, but young enough so that young folks like these can feel comfortable. He has met this young lady - often from the looks of things & she was quite relieved to see him. He introduced me as a nurse & said I was there to both help & refresh my memory. Sandy was delighted to hear we were expecting four babies out our way & said she'd have to make a point of getting out there when she could. Mike & I examined her & he was quite pleased to find her about 5 centimeters dilated, the baby with a strong heartbeat & everything going well.

    Dad had already laid out everything we could possibly need for six babies & Mike sent him back outside to work on their garden plot, assuring him he's let him know when Sandy needed him - which wasn't going to be for some time. Sandy spent the next several hours chatting with us, walking about & we managed to heat up enough water for a good bath to relax her. They'd already picked out names & as I've said, were as ready as they could be with diapers, clothing & all the odds & ends you like to have for babies.

    By eight that evening, she was getting close, about 8 centimeters dilated & contractions coming about every five minutes. Goodness, I'd forgotten how tiring that is! And never mind me, she & her hubby were completely worn out with a fair bit of work to do. She was pretty pale & grim by now & for a very young man, I thought dad did very well. He stayed right by her, helping her breathe & encouraging her all the way.

    And by midnight, what did we have but a brand new, 8-pound baby boy, in perfect health. Oh we ALL had tears in our eyes, especially when he opened his eyes & stared right into his mother's eyes. There's no more magical moment, is there? Mike at that point, brought out an 'essential' from his briefcase which serves as his labor & delivery bag - a small bottle of champagne & some paper cups! We even let mom have a few sips as soon as we had her & her newborn son cleaned up. She did a fantastic job & we only stayed long enough to make sure neither mom or baby had complications. They decided to spend the first night together in the main bedroom & Mike & I were happy to leave them to it.

    Yeah, it comes back when you see it again & assuming everything goes normally, I can cope with the births due here. Mike & I spent some time discussing what COULD go wrong & how to handle different situations that might come up. From what I've been able to describe about our two girls & Lisa, he's convinced things should proceed smoothly & normally. The girl across the road is another story. He's going to find a reason to drop in for a visit, check her over if her parents don't mind & make some suggestions about exercise & diet. As a fifteen year old, she's at a somewhat higher risk that either Cindy, Louise or Lisa. I can't help but feel she'll not cope well with labor & I don't get the feeling her mother is going to be much help.

    I didn't say much yet about Noreen's trip to town. She took some time to scan through the list of the dead that's been collected, checking for any mention of particular friends of hers. She found far too many for her liking. I didn't look - I can't bear to yet. We each encountered people we do know who are alive & well - not many, but finding anybody is a real joy. Most are hanging in there, but seem uncertain as to what to do next. Well, we all are. All I could do was repeat what the mayor has been saying; that is, to work as hard as they can to get ready for next winter.

    Some groups have decided on a somewhat different division of labor & it makes sense that each group do things depending on their needs & strengths. One group has worked like slaves preparing ground for planting. Now, they're cutting trees for wood for next year. They plan to trim them, split the wood into sections they can manage then drag them closer to the house they're occupying, just on the outskirts of town on the north side.

    Some skilled workers are finding that as much as their skills may be in demand, food is the priority & most people are simply working as hard as possible to prepare for planting. I spoke to one farmer in town who has more sows than he can handle & would kill for a cow. We're in the opposite situation & he's going to ride out here sometime this week to speak with Drew about a trade. I've heard of another farm what has sheep & no cattle. Mark is going to go out with Annette on horseback & check that out. Actually, he said something about perhaps taking Tom instead. He's been doing well with his riding lessons & an outing would be a treat for him. He'd love to meet new people & see some of what's happening around the community. He's taken such good care of us & I know he's had a lot of sleepless nights as he wondered just how we were going to manage with certain situations. A break for this place might give him some new ideas & would certainly be as good as a rest.

    Now I'd best put my head down for a couple of hours. Andy & I are on duty tonight & there's hardly any moon out there. I'll be stumbling around badly as it is without having to worry about falling down from lack of sleep!
    More of my thoughts on flu/health matters and the latest news can be found at [url=]The Laboratory[/url].

  27. #187
    Join Date
    May 2001
    Kingston, Ontario, Canada

    evening, 30 April, '03

    It's been another fine day although Drew is sure we'll have rain tomorrow. There were thin high streamers of clouds last night & they were lovely as the sun set, glowing peach & salmon, then slowly purpling as the sun went down. I can't believe next month is May - always my favorite month of the year. That's the month where spring changes from promise to fact, when the first real flush of flowers appear & I can hardly wait.

    Of course for us, it will be a very busy month, full of hard labor. I'm grateful that the temperatures are generally not too hot, that we'll have nice weather - or should - for the planting work. We have lots of hats & caps for all to wear, sunscreen by the bucket & plenty of soap both body & laundry soap. We're going to need it! I've never known farm work to be a neat endeavor & with enthusiastic children involved, this could get messy indeed! I thank God for Morgan & his laundry apparatus. I don't know how the women did it in the old days; I really don't. I understand once a week they could be all day doing laundry. My grandmother was firm on that. She said she was up well before dawn to begin boiling water & in the winter, only the most essential items were laundered. With Morgan's help & the availability of the old wringer from Drew's grandparents being found in decent shape, much of the worst of the labor is gone.

    The kids are pretty good at folding & hanging stuff. Even the youngest can match socks, a job that's easy but time consuming. When it's laundry time the piles are awfully daunting, but many hands make light work. That is the same with meal preparation & kitchen cleanup, so I'm hoping it will work the same way with planting. Drew these days, is getting quieter & tenser. Who can blame him as never has a decision on what to plant & when mattered so very much. He's ready to get the cold weather crops in I believe, those that won't be harmed by a touch of late frost. We're not likely to get hard frosts this late, although it's always possible. Oh don't we wish we had a crystal ball. Drew says he's going over & over his annual records & those of his dad & grand dad, trying to establish valid weather patterns in terms of frost. The problem with weather though is that just as you find yourself counting on a pattern, Mother Nature decides to trip you up!

    Still, it's getting on to time to get in cabbages, onions, leeks & legumes. Morgan has put up some cold frames & to the kids' delight we have tiny lettuce plants & radishes growing. He's working on several more - even one more would be nice as it's getting close to the time to plant things out anyway. Many of Noreen's herbs are coming up & fresh herbs in food will be lovely.

    Drew slaughtered an older cow within the last few days. The kids thought that meant steak right away but no, he explained it had to hang a few days. Jared, Carol & Ashley were deemed old enough to participate in this process - not the actual killing of the poor thing, but what comes after. To make it easier Drew & Joe did the more disgusting bits first; the animal's head was removed, she was skinned & gutted. They WILL watch how the meat is cut up & the men will help with that. Drew says it's hard work but we're looking forward to the meat. The women have laid claim to the ribs. With the Harrisons coming for Sunday dinner, they want to lay on a mess of ribs as the main meal. Sounds lovely & I don't care if my face & hands end up a big sticky mess! We're packaging up some meat for all the neighbors & Maxine will salt away the rest; what won't keep fresh for more than a few days.

    We're trying to think of a way we could refrigerate things this summer. The stream runs quite a ways back from the house, right in the woods & we fear animals might get at anything we try & place there, even if we do try & keep it secured. Morgan says we can make an icehouse next year. We could pack straw tightly into bales, insulate one of the sheds as well as we can & cut ice late in the winter. Now why didn't we think of that this year? As much as we longed for warmer weather, we'll be dying for ice come August. We take so much for granted, don't we?

    Annie has been away all day at the Harrisons place. Young Lisa went into labor this morning & by noon, Sean had come over to ask Anne to come & have a look to see how she was doing. She was doing well & after giving Lisa & the others some advice & encouragement; Annie came home to get herself properly cleaned up & to collect all the things she might need. By times throughout the afternoon & evening, Mark & Annette have ridden over to see how things are going. At last check Anne said that by midnight, she's have a new baby & I said a special prayer for Lisa, her baby & my Annie who must be feeling very nervous.

    Annie had already gone over to the Greenes home early today to check up on their son AJ. Thankfully, he's much more comfortable. His cast seems to be fitting fairly well; he can wriggle his fingers & hasn't felt anything unusual other than the pain from the original break! He's sweetie. Annie said he apologized very solemnly to her for having "made her" need to look after him. While she was saying this, the other two children whispered together & disappeared into a back room. They came out with a lovely hand made card for Annie, carefully drawn with the front page showing AJ falling out of the tree, (drawn by his little sister) & a lovely thank you inside. Everyone signed it & Annie said she’d treasure it forever. I imagine she will. She was so moved, she promptly invited the lot of them to dinner NEXT Sunday, explaining the Harrisons were already coming over this week.

    The Harrisons accepted then hesitantly offered a different suggestion. Why didn't we come to THEIR place? ALL of us??? Anne reminded them we had quite a crowd but Keisha had a wonderful idea - why didn't all four groups come over & do a potluck? Anne thought that was a fine plan & without committing herself or us to specific dishes, said she'd get back to Keisha later in the week & discuss who was bringing what. Pot luck without the luck! It makes more sense to do it that way though as we'd hate to all show up with pickled beets & bread!

    More news from "outside" today. There still seems to be a nationwide valiant band of amateur radio operators. I'm not sure how they're powering their equipment; I'm simply grateful someone in town has the ability to receive news & transmit stuff from here. It's hard to get details, but some highlights are slowly making their way across the country, area by area, region by region. It’s very sad, most depressing to hear the stark facts as they've been passed on. I suppose I should go from coast to coast as best I can - this was one of the longer news broadcasts we've had in a while. Makes sense as it's the first real news we've had.

    Starting in California; they had a hard winter. They generally do in an El Nino year & this one was no exception. I would have hoped that on top of smallpox, they wouldn't have to fear food shortages or cold weather. I was so terribly wrong on both counts. They've had rainstorm after rainstorm & it's been hovering in the forties. There have been mudslides with injuries & deaths, although not too many of the latter. It's hard to imagine California stripped of so much of its population but it has been. Los Angeles was struck very hard, not so much by The Outbreak, which was bad enough, but by the riots. There are so many parts of that city which are very poor. Young men without jobs, out of school roam around armed, setting up these ridiculous running battles over 'territory'. Who'd want to shoot anyone else to death over a strip of concrete & asphalt is beyond me, but that is what many of them grow up thinking is normal. Many bought or sold drugs & once there was nothing to buy, they went mad. The addicts suffered terribly, many of them dying in the throes of withdrawal as well as smallpox - a fate repeated for many unfortunate souls across the nation.

    Being one of the rich & powerful proved to be no protection for many of the famous movie stars, musicians, directors & producers. Their fine hillside homes rely on electricity for many of their security measures & with power failing very early in the emergency they were helpless to keep out those who were determined to find food & better accommodations. San Francisco, Oakland, other large cities encountered many similar problems & most seaside cities had devastating coastal flooding. Once storm barriers were breached, there was no stopping the onslaught of the sea.

    I think many counted on produce from California making its way east to relieve much of the hunger. No, that's not about to happen for a few reasons. First, there's no one to grow, harvest or transport it & secondly, much of those crops are dependent on good weather & electricity, as well as cheap, migrant labor. All these commodities are in short supply & anything grown locally is no doubt being consumed locally. Dear me, it's so hard to think every area, every town, must initially rely upon its own resources. God help us.

    The Pacific Northwest is still buried under a seemingly perpetual cloud cover & it never stops raining. The only thing they're growing in any great quantity is mildew. The weather made the plague worse & apparently very few people are left or are answering any calls. It may be the latter as people fear the demands of other survivors.

    The southwest was always sparsely populated but as many from other areas attempt to move in, those who made it through the winter without becoming exposed to variola are now succumbing. This is horrifying to think about as much of our beef comes from there & that at least was a ray of hope. I'd heard suggestions of cattle drives EAST, bringing meat to markets although how that was all supposed to work, who was to do the driving, whose cattle were to be commandeered was always more than a bit hazy. I only pray as people there die in large numbers that many of the cattle can 'naturalize'. It's a very harsh climate, dry & hot in summer, bone chilling cold in winter, but I can envision people in late summer making their way to these states, cutting out some cattle & somehow driving them back to where they've settled - assuming those areas aren't too far away. Oh dear; that all sounds rather far-fetched, doesn't it? I'm simply overwhelmed at the thought of so many without, yet areas where there is still plenty. But without reliable; transportation, without fuel & roads, 'the twain may never meet'.

    The Midwest, our region if you count in the Great Lakes, suffered no less than anywhere else did. Winter was hard & the full cost is not yet apparent. In our favor is the knowledge that many find the idea of settling here too difficult. It sounds like too much effort, too many adverse conditions for many people. For those of us prepared to work hard, who know local conditions, it may be a good prospect.

    The northeast fared the worst & no wonder. Nowhere else do you have such a concentration of large cities with so many people. It's a heavily industrialized area with ribbons of multi-laned roads cutting up what land might still be suitable for farming. The big cities have been completely devastated. The same 'social problems' afflicting the West Coast cities also took a large toll. Panic, confusion & complete gridlock meant few people were able to leave cities such as New York. Bridges, tunnels & highways were blocked by enormous traffic jams as people tried to flee. The idea of trying to keep people in their homes simply didn't work. New Yorkers never liked being told what to do & certainly weren't prepared to listen. However when you get hundreds of thousands of terrified people trying to flee at once, chaos inevitably ensues & accidents occurred quickly. Angered people following on tried to shove cars off of roads, bridges - it turned very ugly very quickly.

    Similar scenes were enacted in other cities & those who could flee quickly found they really had nowhere to go. Food, medicines, all ran short very quickly & anyone giving the appearance of having something others lacked were challenged, shot & otherwise murdered & their things, pathetically few at times, stolen.

    The southeast is seeing the largest influx of immigrants right now & that is not good news for that area. It's already fairly heavily inhabited, even with all the deaths & it seems most are heading for coastal areas. If they're counting on fish & seafood to sustain them, they'd better have the skills. I for one would not want to have to take fishing boats out in those seas. I know nothing of ocean fishing - can barely bait a hook with a worm! This part of the country has hazards man y will be unfamiliar with - crocodiles, mosquitoes like they've never encountered, snakes, poisonous plants & extremes in weather.

    There are rumors that parts of Alabama & Georgia, Tennessee as well have already had spates of tornado activity. Those poor people - no warning, perhaps nowhere to go & no help afterwards. I'm not even sure how they'd be farming down there. I know so little of farming here; so don't know what crops they can grow. When I think of Georgia, I think of peanuts!

    The news team promised to try & get something, anything they can from other countries within the next few days. I'm not sure how radio works exactly, the sort of amateur radio that's still operating. I wonder if these 'hams' can get overseas transmissions? I'll have to ask Andy - I think he'd know.

    But for now, I'd best get myself to bed, It's very late, after midnight & it seems to be turning a bit cool. I might make Jean & Noreen some hot chocolate before I turn in & bring it out to them. I think they'd like that & they're back in the yard - I heard them whispering a few minutes ago. I need to visit the outhouse before I tuck myself anyway else I'll be awake in the wee small hours when it's dank & so lonely.

    God look over each & every one of us...
    More of my thoughts on flu/health matters and the latest news can be found at [url=]The Laboratory[/url].

  28. #188
    Join Date
    May 2001
    Kingston, Ontario, Canada

    afternoon, 01/05/03

    Those bloody bastards! And no, damnit, I will NOT apologize for my language. MT before going to bed last night, decided to make some hot chocolate for Jean & Noreen who she thought she heard out in the yard. She heard voices alright, but it wasn't our guards - they were still making their way back from the woods. Instead it was three ruthless assholes, three cretins who wanted something or other & when MT came out, freaked out & pistol whipped her. The dogs started barking, they took off & we found her lying in the mud by the horse barn, bleeding from the head & looking very, very bad.

    Mark made the ride of his life, tearing across country to get the doctor. He's still with her & it's not looking very good. Dad, Drew, Joe & Jake are out after those sons of bitches now, along with the men at the Harrisons & Jack Meriwether. They'd bloody well better hope we don't catch them. I swear to God if we do, they're dead men.
    More of my thoughts on flu/health matters and the latest news can be found at [url=]The Laboratory[/url].

  29. #189
    Join Date
    May 2001
    Kingston, Ontario, Canada

    evening, 01/05/03

    Thank God for mercies. MT has come out of her stupor, finally. She was badly injured late last night as she crossed the farmyard. She surprised three thieving scum who were after God knows what. They've been caught & will bother no one else - enough said on that for now.

    The doctor was here most of the day & now Anne is sitting with her. Anne has been with her since Annette went to the Harrisons to get her. She hated leaving Lisa like they, but the Harrisons told her to get herself home as quickly as possible; they'd manage with Lisa who was doing well in any case. Poor girls, Annette isn't that experienced a rider & I don't think Anne has been on a horse in years but they HAD to get home quickly & did. They only beat Mark & the doctor by about 30 minutes & by then, Sam, Jean & Noreen had very carefully & gently immobilized her head & back & brought her in on an old door. I thought Morgan was going to burst a blood vessel with sheer rage. We needed him to stay here, to keep an eye on things as we went after those... whatever.

    MT has a badly cut forehead & the doctor suspects she may have a hairline fracture both of her skull & her eye socket - the orbit Anne calls it. Whatever is broken she's in a tremendous amount of pain yet because of the head injury the doctor can only give her small amounts of painkiller. What he's done is set up an intravenous & every two hours, Anne injects the tiniest amount of morphine - just enough to take the edge off her pain. We don't dare do more - she's so old, so frail as it is.

    She was unconscious for a long time, frighteningly long & the longer she stayed out of it; the more worried the doctor looked. When he heard what happened, he was absolutely livid. We only know because Izzy had heard her downstairs just before she went out. Needing to use the facilities herself & not being fond of the chamberpot, she'd run downstairs & had just about arrived at the door when she saw the men set upon MT. She was smart enough to shriek for us at the top of her lungs. Oh man, did we move fast & I thought I was going to faint when I saw her lying in the mud, huddled in a broken, pitiful heap. God help me, I didn't know whether to take off after those sorry excuses for humanity right there & then or run to her.

    I ran to her after Sarah raced by me, yelling that she was setting the dogs loose. Mark had the Harrisons loose their dog too & it was thanks to her that we eventually caught those "men". But later for that.

    As I said, the doctor arrived very quickly. Thank God horses have good eyes for Mark was riding damned near blind with little moonlight available to help. Never mind the roads, he took off across the fields & I thank God the horse didn't stumble into any holes. Mark says he found fences he didn't know was there & the horse is not trained for jumping - Mark has only just begun to put him over little poles. I expect the poor animal picked up on the sense of urgency though. Mark did come back by road as he had the doctor on behind him, clinging for dear life.

    Mike wasn't hopeful at first & he still feels her condition is somewhat critical. He doesn't like how long she was unconscious although thankfully her pupils reacted normally, (according to Mike), which was a good sign. He told us that meant less chance of bleeding into the brain or any similar complications. Thank God! Her age alone is a complication. 81 years old, no matter how brave & determined; Lord, I'm shaking, and I have to stop a minute...

    Okay, I'm back. I won’t say I feel fine, but I can hold a pen. I tiptoed up & checked on how she was doing. Anne looks exhausted & worried but says MT is holding her own. Her pulse is pretty fast & weak & Anne isn't happy about her breathing. She feels cold & we've bundled her with blankets. Her poor head! The entire right side of her head is black & blue & so swollen & I could barely recognize her. Seeing her like that filled me with fresh rage. Mike said the next 24 hours would bring any crisis coming. We have to keep her sitting up & Anne must try to wake her every hour, to make sure her level of consciousness isn't slipping back into something worrying.

    I'm not sure anyone is asleep except the children. Anyone not on guard duty or seeing to MT & Anne, or Sarah's dogs is no doubt on their knees & praying. Noreen & Jean feel terrible but my God; they weren't doing ANYTHING wrong. They simply hadn't returned to the farmyard yet; they were no more than 15 minutes away. I don't know what MT thought she saw or heard. Izzy said she'd gone out with two mugs of hot chocolate. She may have heard something & thought it was the women making their way back. It would be like her to welcome them with a hot drink on a cold, damp night.

    Mike promised he'd be back sometime in the morning, after he's taken care of any urgent situations in town. Anything his nurses can handle, he'll turn over to them, but he's very worried about MT & I know he'll be here as soon as he can. Anne refuses to leave her mother's side even though I know she's absolutely reeling with exhaustion. I'm going to try & rest for a few hours, then sit with her. If she won't leave her mom - and who can blame her, I can at least sit with her.

    Right now all we can do is watch & wait this long night away, pray like we've never prayed before & try to calm down. God will have to do the rest.

    Several of us took off after those bastards as soon as we figured out they weren't far. I'd mentioned Sarah letting the dogs loose. Annette took off for her mom before any of us could tell her to be careful & God, what if she'd run into those cretins? But she didn't & bless them, the Harrison men were locked & loaded before Anne had even left. They set their dog loose & yelled to Annette to tell us to follow the barking & to NOT shoot them; they'd be right behind the dog. Their dog caught up to those bastards fast enough, followed by several of Sarah's. They started shooting & hit three of the dogs - only one of them badly & even that poor boy is going to make it. Mike thank goodness, decided that any dog chasing down & shot by some nutbar who's pistol-whip an old lady deserved to be properly stitched up. He had to take a bullet out of its gut & it nicked an intestine, but not badly & Jean can handle the post-op care for that hurting puppy. The others were luckier. One had part of its left ear clipped off by a bullet - just needed cleaning & the other was grazed across the back. We thought it had been paralyzed but no, it was just shock & within 30 minutes, the poor animal was on its feet again.

    We were pretty close to them when the dogs caught up with them & when the shooting started, hit the dirt. They heard us & started firing our way. Nathan Harrison shot the first one when the fool stood up thinking he had a clear shot at me. Maybe he did, I was trying to move to better cover. Andy shot the second one, winged him & Joe finished him off. Wade got the third one a few seconds later. Oh we gave them chances to stop, although I'm not sure what we would have done if they'd surrendered. There's no law enforcement in town; if the jail is still operable, I'm not sure who would look after it & we have no court system that I'm aware of. After this, I'm bloody well going to see to it that we get one fast.

    Once we knew they were thoroughly dead, we walked back to the Harrisons - just in time for Lisa to deliver a perfect little girl, just a touch under 7 pounds - 6 pounds, thirteen ounces. Some good news in the face of everything we faced tonight. Shit. I should be celebrating the birth of a healthy baby to some good neighbors & these scumbags have ruined that. Oh man, with luck we can properly celebrate with her later. She deserves our full & open joy.

    Poor young Nathan - poor Wade for that matter. Joe & Andy have had training in what happens to you if you ever have to use your firearm in the line of duty. They've dealt with colleagues who've had that happen to then. Not so these men & if I didn't already like them, which I did; I would now. They didn't hesitate when they heard what had happened. They were with us before we had time to give them any explanation & all we really had time to say was that some unknown scum had knocked unconscious my aging mother-in-law. That was all they needed & they were as mad as if had been someone near & dear to them.

    Wade settled down after a while, not so Nathan. Joe & Andy spent hours walking with him, talking him through the whole thing, going over verbally what had happened, how the man had stood & was obviously aiming at me. No one had time to stop him any other way. Nathan did what HAD to be done. They said this over & over as they walked him around the yard. He cried, he shook, he puked & he screamed in anguish. They kept him moving & kept him talking. Joe says it's better to get it out right after it happens. You don't want it bottled up. They'd have done that for Annette, I'm pretty sure, smallpox risk be damned.

    Once he was worn right down, Wade poured a slug of strong brandy into him. Had to give him two shots as he brought the first one right back up. He's not used to drink that strong & certainly not under those circumstances. Andy is closer to him in age & once the doctor sees MT & gives us an update, Andy is heading back there to help out Nathan & Wade. He & Joe have been with each other since last night, going over it, reminding each other they did the right thing.

    I don't think they feel too guilty; I hope they're just trying to prevent second thoughts. As for me, I feel no guilt at all at what we did. I too would have shot one or more of them if I'd had a clear shot. We did what needed doing because who knows what they would have tried next or where? What about the Greenes, a young couple with kids? I don't think they have a dog or a gun. It could have been anyone out there. What if it had been one of the younger women alone? Who knows what might have happened?

    We've been too busy today to do much around the farm & in any case it rained off & on most of the day. Joe was over at the Harrisons for a time - they were hanging in there & thankfully for them, they have a brand new healthy baby as a distraction. Nathan was still feeling pretty lousy but that is to be expected. Joe stopped off at the Greenes as well & told them what all the uproar had been about. He discretely brought them a rifle & shotgun & showed both the adults how to use them. They're not happy about the need for firearms, they're not fans of funs, but they recognize the possible need. Joe showed them what they need to know for now & promised someone would be by through the week to help them practice. I think we'll send Annette. It may seem less threatening to them if they see a fifteen-year-old can safely & calmly use a firearm properly. AJ Greens is doing well & Anne is pleased about that.

    Yeah, things are pretty much in an uproar here. Jean & Sarah have spent a fair bit of time with the dogs. Poor things; they'd chased these men down & as far as we can determine, had not touched them. I expect they simply growled. The men must have been scared or something, especially with the Harrisons dog there. Sarah thinks they should be with people as much as possible for a time, to make sure they understand we are NOT those who hurt them. They're being kept in a separate shed for now & the children have been told to stay away from them unless Sarah, Jean or one of the other adults is with them.

    Anne is staying with her mother as is only right & Cindy & Louise are doing their best to keep everyone fed as necessary. The kids still want & need regular meals but the rest of us are grabbing food when we think to do so. Poor Noreen & Jean - we've got to get it through their heads that this simply happened. Those men might have shown up when they WERE there & avoided the place or may have come & gone without ever being spotted. It was simply unfortunate timing.

    Drew, the other men, are wracking their brains trying to figure out how to make this place more secure. That's going to be difficult & any determined person can get on this property if I'm going to be realistic about it. I have to be - it helps no one to be stupid about this. Very, very soon people will run out of food unless they were smart enough to get a whole lot right away or after most people had left or died. I honestly don't know how many people may be out there as desperate as those men were. Perhaps others have food but want 'other' things. We have several young ladies with us & we're not the only ones. It's time we gathered the adults from all four places together & spoke seriously of increasing our collective security. I fear we may encounter equally difficult situations & this one is by no means resolved.

    Now, I'd best get some hot soup for Anne. I hope & pray something warm in her tummy will help her dose off a bit. I can watch Mother as well as she can & I certainly will wake Anne if there's any change in at her; for good or ill.
    More of my thoughts on flu/health matters and the latest news can be found at [url=]The Laboratory[/url].

  30. #190
    Join Date
    May 2001
    Kingston, Ontario, Canada

    after lunch, 02/05/03

    Noreen here needing to do something with my hands before I go crazy. There's not a damned thing in this house that needs any more scrubbing, the yard has been weeded to within an inch of its life & MT is hanging in there, thank the Good Lord! None of us has a very good night, worried as we all were for MT.

    Anne never left her side, refusing to go out even to use the outhouse. She simply used a chamberpot in the closet & glared & hissed at anyone who suggested she would benefit from a change of air. Poor woman; I can't imagine how terrible she's feeling. As is usual with injuries like this it looks terrible. The poor dear - her face is a right awful mess, swollen & purple/blue. Anne broke out the chemical ice packs she has & is using them to help reduce the swelling & hopefully ease some of the pain.

    MT had to be woken up hourly & although she's a bit grumpy, she's very much in her right mind. We were almost hovering at the front gate waiting for the doctor. The showed up very early apologizing but saying he'd been called out early for an accident & coming over hadn't taken him far out of his way. He examined MT very carefully & said so far so good, but naturally he can't make any promises. Head injuries are dicey at the best of times & he's unable to do any x-rays, CAT scans or MRIs or any of the other wonderful tests we took for granted. He's having to depend on old-fashioned diagnostic skills & intuition. He says the fact she's gone this long without developing complications is good. He frowned a bit when Anne gave her MT's medical history. Thankfully her angina is mild & she's not been troubled with it at all lately. Her cancer appears to be in full remission although who can tell?

    In terms of her injuries, she was a very worrying sight when she was found & brought in. Her forehead, right at the hairline above the right eye was bleeding badly & her eye was already swelling shut. Once Mike gently cleaned her up, there was a nasty little gash visible on her head. He needed to out in eight stitches to close it & would have preferred not to until he was certain about any fractures but it was deep. Part of whatever she was hit with - Izzy thinks it was a gun must have been quite sharp. Her eye area is still terrible to see & will take time to begin to look better.

    Mike is leaving the intravenous in for several days. He wants to be very sure she doesn't become dehydrated & I'm thankful it only took him three attempts to get it into her arm. Still, it's bruised up too. He was relieved to see that although she's very... dazed? - she can be roused & understands what's going on. Today, he wants her to remain in bed, as still as she can stay & Anne is to continue to check on her state of consciousness hourly. He'll be back tonight to check her again. She's in a lot of pain, not just her head, but she's stiff & bruised all over & will be some time recovering.

    Mike asked to speak to Anne out of the room & Tom gripped her firmly by the arm & marched her out & downstairs as Jean sat with her. That was more for Anne than MT's sake. Mike sat her at the kitchen table & insisted she eat more - he doesn't want another patient. Anne's still very much in shock & very angry & upset. After being downstairs for a few minutes she broke down completely sobbing & howling as if there was no tomorrow. As hard as that was to see & hear, she needed that - the tension in her was so high. Mike was quite stern with her - she's to rest today, even if she naps on a cot in MT's room & preferably, she'll take a proper rest period in her own bed. MT will need her later, he cautioned, if she recovers properly.

    He's still very guarded in his outlook. Any accident, bad fall or shock at that age, especially combined with a fairly severe injury does not have a good outlook. He cautioned that even if she recovers from the injuries as such, she might never quite be the same again. I'm afraid he may be right. I’ve seen that so often - an elderly person doing just fine, then after an accident, even a seemingly minor one, they fade rapidly. I pray that's not the case here.

    The dogs are doing well. Jean has them all on antibiotics right now & says they're going to be fine. The one who did take a shot to the gut is lucky that the intestine wasn't completely perforated - that might have caused more problems than we can deal with. The others seem to 'know' somthing's gone wrong. They've been pretty quiet & they're not eating quite as much as they usually do.

    We've all been thrown off kilter by this incident. Drew's in a quandary. He wants to get going with some of the main crop planting, but no one is ready for that today; they're too worried & upset, too distracted & he'll wait another day or so. The children are SO upset that "Grammy MT" has been so badly hurt. It's heartbreaking to see how quiet they're being, how much they're trying to help. They were up early this morning & seeing to their chores & extra little jobs before any of us are properly awake. Carol & Ashley had all the laundry gathered up this morning before seven. The boys were hauling in water, ready to have one of the men lift it into the bigger pots on the stove to heat for washing. Even Izzy has been quiet & well behaved. I found her this morning walking outside, just below MT's room, picking weeds. She said when MT could get up & look outside, she didn't want her seeing "a messy yard". That was so sweet.

    We've asked the children to try & handle any small jobs they notice need doing - picking up things, helping prepare meals, cleaning anything dirty - anything to make it easier for everyone. Even the youngest ones did everything they should have this morning without needing reminders from the adults. When they ran out of chores, they sat in the boys' room & made get-well cards for MT, writing as neatly as they could. Jared & Izzy have HOVERED outside MT's door, offering to empty chamberpots, bring up snacks & drinks for Anne & any other adult in there - so caring & sweet.

    Andy has been at the Harrisons all morning & Joe & Tom went into town. They're determined to spend time speaking with the mayor, speaking of the growing need for some kind of local law system. Joe feels there must be a single person with no other responsibilities who would be willing to take on the job of law enforcement. With the weather warming & desperation surely increasing among some people, that need will only grow. Joe doesn't want the job - he saw more than he cared to & has responsibilities here he's sees as his most important priority, but he certainly has some ideas as to what's needed, as does Tom.

    Keisha Greene came over this morning with some cornbread & cookies for the kids - bless her. She stayed only a few minutes & it was nice to meet her; I only wish the circumstances had been different. She wanted to thank Anne again for helping AJ & said if there's anything they can do...

    Drew will go next door in a little while. The timing isn't wonderful - or maybe it is, but the Runnings & Merriwethers finally decided to get off their butts & get to work. Drew wants to check out their tractor & hopefully get it working, then show them how to operate it. After that, he'll give them a few pointers on ploughing & wish them luck.

    We want to get the adults together sometime this week - the sooner the better, to discuss security. We all have different vulnerabilities & maybe talking them over together will give us some ideas on the best ways to protect ourselves. Between the four groups, we're not lacking in determined people, skills & weapons if it comes to that.

    Andy's just come home. He & the Harrison men have just buried the three men they shot the other night. Not a pleasant job, Andy tells us, but needful & he says it helped Nathan a great deal. None of the three had any identification on them & all looked to be in their mid-twenties. They were pretty skinny & may have been looking for food when they came here. I wish they'd just shown up in daylight, knocked & asked. We may have people doing that soon & that's something else we need to talk about. We have enough for our needs & maybe a bit more, but we can't be feeding everybody who runs out of stuff either.

    Mark & Annette are both pretty stiff this morning & the gelding Mark was riding will need a few days of rest. He's stiff in one leg, his right front & Mark thinks he may have clipped a downed tree he jumped over in that wild ride to town. It's a blessing none of them were hurt; they took off so fast to get help. The horses have been brushed & rubbed down several times, given hot mashes & are both in the barn resting in stalls. I think they're fine - just worked a bit too hard during the race for help. Annette's thighs are chafed raw. She's never ridden that far that fast & must have been clinging on for dear life. Thank God she was able to take the road. Mike mentioned his bottom hasn’t been this sore since the last time his dad laid a spanking on him. I noticed he was walking pretty stiffly.

    I'm going to have to make up some treats for the clinic. If they're reacting this quickly to every emergency, they're working hard & probably missing meals. Actually, I'll go do that now. I'm all 'written out', everything is quiet & if I don't get busy with something, I'll end up putting my fist through a wall. Dead or not, I'm still furious at those men.
    More of my thoughts on flu/health matters and the latest news can be found at [url=]The Laboratory[/url].

  31. #191
    Join Date
    May 2001
    Kingston, Ontario, Canada

    evening, 02/05/03

    Joe & I are finally back from town. It's a good thing I warned Anne & the others we weren't rushing back as it turns out we had quite a discussion with the mayor & others at City Hall.

    First & most importantly, MT is still with us, still coherent when we wake her & still looking like hell with her injuries. Sam & Alex just came home - the doctor had come over late & they didn't want him heading back to town alone. He's cautiously optimistic that she'll survive the shock & injuries she sustained & Anne has finally fallen asleep. Blame me for that. I "doped" her tea with a mild sedative that's tasteless. Had a devil of a time getting it to dissolve, but she was too tired to notice & within about 20 minutes must almost falling off her chair. She's fast asleep on the cot now & Morgan is sitting up with MT, a schedule for waking MT at his side.

    Everybody's asleep. Drew insisted everyone get to bed at a decent hour tonight as tired & troubled or not, tomorrow he says, we MUST start the work. I know, that seems wrong somehow but I know MT wouldn't have it any other way. Keeping busy will do us all good. Funny how we get used to simply halting most things when trouble strikes. We get time off work, off school & social obligations are excused. Here & now, trouble simply adds to our workload. The animals still need to be seen to & every day we delay planting may mean a delay in harvest with disastrous consequences if the weather turns bad when we should be bringing crops in.

    So tomorrow we start & boy, I for one don't feel ready. Drew said Soya beans, which sent me flying to his plant guides. Soya beans... plant about 1.5" deep, about a foot apart & rows 2 feet apart. Hard to believe those plants will fill all that space but Drew said they will; no problem. He's the expert. Maxine is going to have to read something along the lines of "Using Soya Beans in the Kitchen 101". I know you can extract oil & what's left can be used as animal feed. I wonder if Morgan can build us some kind of a press? We'll see. Drew wants to plant quite a number of acres in the stuff.

    Next or at the same time in another field, potatoes - three feet apart for the rows & about 18 inches apart for individual plants. They'll have to be buried a few inches down. I don't know how long it's going to take us to plant all of that but Drew made it clear - we work until we can't see, we can't move & have just enough energy left to stagger to bed. Oh boy. He's right though because we've got loads of other crops to get in too.

    The women will work around us, making meals & bringing them out to us in the fields. Laundry - well clothing is going to get good & dirty before it has time to see hot water & soap again. Anne will be busy with MT & the kids will handle every possible job they can when they're not planting stuff. The heavier fetching & carrying we'll all have to manage as best we can & somewhere in there, we have to squeeze in a meeting with the other families to talk about how to keep ourselves safe from starving strangers & maniacal morons. I'm not sure which of those two categories scares me more.

    Joe & I had a long talk with the mayor & other interested parties. It turned into quite a gathering & a surprisingly strong debate. Okay, we all agreed on one basic thing - we need some effective system of justice in our community in order to protect individual & community interests. And that's about all we agreed on. Opinions on what sort of legal system we needed ranged from everything to 'exactly the way it was before' to 'we could & should handle our own problems'. Right, obviously each end of that spectrum has problems. We have no way to resurrect what we once had & most of us loved to complain that it went way too far. On the other hand, leaving every issue open to individual discretion leaves open the possibility of abuse on a huge scale. And man opinions are strongly held.

    I felt sorry for the mayor, trying to control that crowd, their tempers & opinions. Everyone eventually had his or her say & we had to leave the issue unresolved & with no real hope of resolution in sight. No one’s terribly happy with that except for those who prefer to handle any "legal" matters affecting them themselves. The mayor had to finally throw up his hands & 'leave it to our good judgement'. I asked to speak at that point, as the mayor left to attend to other duties & I told everyone there what had happened. I told them none of us had been happy doing so, but in our minds being fired upon gave us the right to fire back, to defend ourselves. I added that under ANY similar circumstances, we'd do the same thing again. We had no intention of interfering with anybody minding their own business. We'd greet any visitors with a cautious welcome, but NOBODY would be permitted to mess with me or mine or by extension, these with us. I further said that one my neighbors had expressed the same sentiments & today, I didn't think he'd mind too much if I spoke for him.

    Several didn't like that. Some wiener bleated something about "surely there must have been some other way". Joe was sarcastic in his answer: "Sure Andy & I could have watched dad get shot. I don't think so!"

    One valid concern is issues which may not directly affect any one of us, but are just plain WRONG. Holding a sane person against their will, abuse or molestation of children. I said for one, if any such situation came to my attention, I WOULD make it my business to check it out. I also said any community member who came to me with a valid concern, for example needing some perpetrator found & detained & I judged the reasons legitimate, I would participate. I would not however, participate in vigilante justice on anyone's behalf without solid proof of wrongdoing.

    Other things now, the kids seem to be doing fine. Isabelle has been most affected by this, suddenly deciding perhaps listening to adults & doing what she's told is the right way to go. It is; always has been in my book & I hope her "Damascus conversion" holds up. The other littles are acting as though they had several years more growing & maturity under their belt. We've tried to explain that some people; even grownups are just plain MEAN. No explanation or excuses for it; they're just nasty people. That's simple enough for kids that age to understand. It also made it easier to stress the need for them to always be watchful.

    We've cancelled any social gatherings until we know how MT is going to make out. It would utterly break Anne's heart to lose her mom this way & wouldn't do the rest of us any good. Sam & Max have been super, especially with the kids. Sam is calmer than the rest of us or seems to be; I wonder if he just hasn't reached the limit of his capacity for rage & despair? Well the rest of us haven't & it's best to have one clear head around these days. Sam & I will take turns watching over MT with Morgan tonight. I'm hoping Anne sleeps clear through the night. She can raise hell tomorrow if she wants, but unless MT takes a bad turn, Anne is best to get some rest.

    For now, I'd best get up & take over from Morgan for a couple of hours. Tomorrow will be a long day for everyone.
    More of my thoughts on flu/health matters and the latest news can be found at [url=]The Laboratory[/url].

  32. #192
    Join Date
    May 2001
    Kingston, Ontario, Canada

    evening, 04/05/03

    Oh man, what a tiring couple of days. Our schedules have gotten messed up somewhat with MT being ill, but tonight Dad & I are back on guard duty. We'll need two of us to keep each other awake. Cindy won't mind having the bed to herself either. She's not having an easy time finding a comfortable position in which to sleep & she can sprawl out tonight.

    Gram is hanging in there, thank God. The swelling around her stitches & her eye have gone down a lot & the color is now starting to fade. Don't get me wrong - she still looks awful, but it's looking more encouraging. The doctor; Mike - told us each day she continues to feel no worse than the first day is good. She only has to be woken every four hours or so now & if everything is fine tomorrow, we can let her sleep through.

    Mom was really pissed at dad for drugging her tea. I can understand where both are coming from, but on this one I’ve gotta side with dad. She was wiped & too tired to know it. Some of us filled in for her & needed a proper night's sleep. With the rest of us going to have a busy day in the fields, we wanted to be sure she was in shape for watching gram. She did need the rest; I don't care what she says.

    Dad said he last put an entry in here about this time 2 days ago. Bot have we done a lot since then. Drew can really crack the whip. He had us ALL up at quarter to five the day before yesterday & those who had the duty - you know I'm so beat, I'm not even sure who was on watch? Anyway whoever it was, had breakfast ready by five. We sort of ate in shifts; those who were getting right to planting work ate first while those caring for the animals went & did that. The kitchen was a zoo for a while with some finishing a hurried breakfast & others coming in for theirs while others did the fast batch of dishes.

    By five thirty all the stock was watered & the cattle moved two pastures over - grass is starting to look good there. We put the horses in with them. I'm not sure if dad mentioned it but the same day Gram was hurt, a farmer from a few miles the other way dropped by with three very early spring piglets & we traded those for a milk cow with a young male calf at foot. They were seen to - the young ones & the regular chores, hauling firewood & water, clearing out the ashes the three stoves we're using... all done.

    Drew split us into two groups, one to plant Soya beans, the other to start on potatoes. Both seeds or sets or beans - whatever, need to be covered over, so there was a lot of hoeing & raking of soil to do as well as digging & planting. I'll admit it was almost scary looking at how much land we plant - 50 acres or so. Do you KNOW how many frigging potatoes that is? Well, I'm gonna tell ya, because I figure whoever's reading this doesn't have to worry about this kind of stuff anymore. That works out to 245,000 spuds! And I feel like I've planted every damned one of them though we're a long way from finished.

    Drew left open furrows for the crops we have to cover over to any depth & it worked sort of like this. Two kids would slowly walk down a row, dropping a potato every 18 inches or so. Behind came teams of two people, each with a hoe. Alternating spuds, each person hoed a few inches of dirt over a spud. And we've been doing that for 2 days, over & over & over & God, my blisters are almost bleeding. Just for the hell of it, I timed our efforts during the day at several points. We averaged out to being able to plant 10 potatoes a minute, 600 an hour & the other teams were working at about the same pace. We have 8 teams as some of the younger ones are alternating so that's 5400 potatoes an hour. We've put in 11 hours a day doing nothing but planting. Oh we worked longer taking quick meal breaks, but it's still a hell of a long day. We have 4 teams working spuds, another 5 working Soya beans. They have an even longer job, as the spacing is closer for the seeds. Anyway, after 2 days, we have about a quarter of the job done - another 8 days of this crap, a rest day, then on to other crops. Oh man, this is already a nightmare. I'm just going to have to take it 1 day at a time. I envy Louise & Cindy - "all" they have to do is everything else!

    I've never been this sore in the arms, shoulders & neck in my life & never gone to bed so filthy either. I'd love a good hot shower but I'm falling asleep into my supper every evening. God, how did our ancestors do this & everything else? They must have been pretty tough people. Drew says this is going to get tougher. In another couple of weeks, the moon will be near full & he said we'll have to use the light to extend our work hours. Wonderful. As it is, I'm not even sure what the women have been feeding us. I'm shoveling it in automatically, as fast as possible, then staggering into bed.

    Everybody is exhausted. Supposedly we'll get used to this but right now, I don't see how. We have to though. As soon as we finish planting everything, we have to get right into weeding. In fact, some of us will be having to handle that before everything is planted & Drew is hoping for a first cut of hay towards the third week of May. His hay fields must have loved the winter - the hay is already about six inches high. It's been pretty mild & there's lots of ground water & let's hope that continues.

    Folks across the road finally got off their asses & started working. I had a good laugh - saw one of the teens, the one who's not pregnant slam down a rake or hoe or something & try to storm off. Her dad grabbed her arm & I guess he told her to pick it up & get back to work & she wasn't having it. He ended up giving her a good backhand across the face - I could see her rock back from here & she finally picked the thing up & got back to work. Mark has seen the other one actually hanging clothes out & the kids seem to be doing some work. Glad they smartened up - they struck me as living in some kind of dream world when they came over. Maybe it was what happened here that scared some sense into them. Obviously those punks didn't feel rescue was coming & no one else around here believes that for a minute either.

    Sarah's dogs are doing fine. The 2 that were only grazed are back to normal & the one that was gut shot is getting better fast. Sarah has dogs hitched to 2 of the wagons Morgan built & is using those to ferry up loads of seed potatoes from Drew's underground storage cellars. I had no idea they were that big, but he says they've been dug out over lots of time & they're the safest place to store a lot of stuff. That's good to know. I was starting to sweat crop storage.

    I shouldn't be this discouraged - guess it's just all the work. Drew says we'll be plenty busy right through harvest time, but as soon as stuff is in the ground, the pace eases off a bit - from what he can tell from reading old family diaries & what he knows about farming in the old days. Harvest time will be hectic but the different varieties of things we're growing means harvest can happen in a more gradual way. That's when it will get busy in the house - lots of canning & whatever else it takes to get stuff ready for winter storage. Noreen has warned us to expect to have jars & boxes everywhere, under beds, in dark corners... we'll need a lot of space to store everything.

    The kids are working bloody hard for such little rabbits; I'm impressed & so's everyone else. I'm working with Mark, Izzy & David. Andy drew Annette, Jared, Sammy & Timmy - can't separate those two. Andy took me aside when we took a quick juice break the first morning. Annette is so worried about him, about how he might feel having shot that jackass. Andy said he's been dealing with the shooting fine, it was Annette's concern that almost brought him to tears. He said she reminded him she'd done something similar & had felt terrible & would he please feel free to speak with her if he felt troubled? What a sweetie, I'm proud to call her my niece. I think Andy managed to get it through to her that he felt no qualms about what he did. This man was aiming at OUR dad & neither one of us were prepared to stand back & hope for the best.

    Nathan is having some trouble coping. His brain knows he did the right thing but using a firearm against another human & killing that human is a huge line to cross. He crossed it & I'm thankful he wasn't alone in doing so. We haven't had time to speak with him today or even yesterday, but his dad said they'd be bust too, planting & hopefully several weeks of hard work would prevent Nathan from reacting the wrong way. Reacting the wrong way; by that I mean feeling guilty about taking a human life. Oh there will be some of that, but I hope he understands under certain circumstances, it's fully justified & this was one such circumstance.

    We need some law around here & soon. I know there are plenty who are now about to run out of food. It scares me to think no Cindy, Louise, Mom & MT in the house alone, but the first three are armed & won't hesitate to fire a warning shot to bring us running. We're carrying shotguns out here too. Maybe over-reacting a bit, but I feel better.

    Drew says the only way we're going to get a break now is if it rains, really rains & if that happens the only break part will be NOT being in the fields planting whatever it is we're shoving into the ground. The work we're not doing while we plant will still need to be caught up on somehow. It didn't look like rain when it got dark.

    Oh man, I'd better try & sleep for a couple of hours. I'd got to be out there by eleven & it's just past eight now, I need some sleep.
    Last edited by CanadaSue; 03-14-2003 at 06:41 PM.
    More of my thoughts on flu/health matters and the latest news can be found at [url=]The Laboratory[/url].

  33. #193
    Join Date
    May 2001
    Kingston, Ontario, Canada

    evening, 10/05/04

    I think it's Saturday but I don't want to walk to the calendar to check; I'm that tired. What a week it's been starting with Mom getting hurt so brutally, then having to start the planting. Oh if I didn't know we HAD to do this, I'd hate Drew. He's working us so hard but he's putting in hours just as long.

    Mom, thank GOD is doing fine. She still has a lot of bruising & the stitches are healing very slowly, but she's lucid & can move around a little bit with a great deal of help. She doesn’t move far. We help her sit up, very slowly, then stand & take a few steps to a chair while we freshen up her bed. I'm making her do that four or five times a day now, getting up & walking those few steps to her chair & making her sit up for 5 or 10 minutes. I suspect she'll be a long time recovering & once I'm satisfied with her progress, Mike too; I'll have to start taking my share of the work. We'll assign the younger children the duty of staying with her & they can get the women or someone outside if there's something they can't handle.

    We need about another six days to finish planting these first fields, Drew reckons. It's been slower than we expected at times. It's fairly routine when you are planting a long, straight stretch, but we have dips & hills, curves & such to deal with. Boy, can that throw off the rhythm Tom tells me. Everybody has cracked, stiff, aching, blistered & sore hands, even the littlest ones. I have a lot of salves & lotions but with the same tasks having to be repeated daily, there's no healing time. We'll all just have to develop calluses. I had to demand Isabelle take a day off today. Her hands are a real mess. She's been working so hard & not asking for help lifting things when she should have been. Apparently, she's been taking shorter breaks than most & I've put a stop to that. She's still only a little girl.

    Tomorrow, we're only working about six hours, then we're all going to SLEEP. Whoever gets up first will see to supper & Cindy promised food would be prepared & should only need heating up. What I wouldn't do for a microwave! The evening will be spent catching up on a few things. The two main bathrooms are swamps & we'd better make sure we have enough clean socks & underwear for another week.

    The Greenes stopped by very briefly a few days ago. AJ's arm is fine & they wanted to ask about mom. I was glad to tell them she's slowly getting better. She's been having me read to her from her Bible a fair bit. It may help her, but gives me the willies. I hope she's not thinking she's reached the end of her road here on earth. Once an older person hits that stage, the decline can be quick. I'm really not ready to let her go yet, truly I'm not. It's not up to me or anyone else here but oh please Lord, not too soon?

    The Harrisons are working very hard too. One of their boys, the younger one, dropped by with three roasting chickens already plucked & prepared for us yesterday. We were sure appreciative! Jean will bring them their cow/calf tomorrow as well as another cow that can still be milked. Our eggs are due to start hatching any day now & we've got a nice little corner of one of the barns all tidied up & blocked from the wind. They'll have to fend for themselves, no heat for them this year should they need it, but we've let as many eggs stay under some of the hens as we could, almost 6 dozen so far & we're hoping that by fall, we'll be at the point where we can think about regular poultry again. We were able to give the Harrisons some meat as Drew had killed that one older cow & we'd kept the meat as cold as we could. We told them they'd best eat it up as soon as possible & they were planning on it tonight.

    I'd best go & rest for a bit.

    Just wanted to say that all is well so far, but we're longing for some time off.
    More of my thoughts on flu/health matters and the latest news can be found at [url=]The Laboratory[/url].

  34. #194
    Join Date
    May 2001
    Kingston, Ontario, Canada

    evening, 17/05/03

    Saturday just after a supper served at the table at a reasonable time. We're DONE, thank goodness, the Soya beans & potatoes are all in the ground. Never again will I take a bowl of mashed potatoes with gravy & think of it as a yummy filler. I'll think dirt, earthworms, aching shoulders & the 2 hoes I broke. Everybody has worked so hard & everybody is looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow. Almost everybody. The animals still need to be seen to & some early morning chores have to be done, so we drew straws to pick 2 kids & 2 adults to get up - about six or so, to see to those things.

    Joe & Max drew the short straws, as did Timmy & Jared. They can nap later or something, even sleeping until six will be a break for them. They'll water the stock, feed chickens, collect eggs & make sure we've got water & wood ready, as well as make up the kitchen stove fire for later in the day.

    First things first. MT seems to be recovering that God, albeit slowly. At her age, I personally am happy with recovery at whatever speed we get. Her bruises are down to a faded green & yellow & her stitches will come out early next week. Mike will remove those himself. Her vision hasn't been harmed & she's still very alert. But she's still very weak, very tired. She's just now begun to be able to leave her room for a short time. We help her walk into the kitchen or front room & she'll sit with us for fifteen minutes or so, before we help her back to bed. It's important she be with us as much as she can, that she sees we're still working hard, still very much concerned for her & she appreciates that. We're still not leaving her alone. The kids take turn sitting with her, being there to fetch things for her, do whatever she needs help with. She's trying hard to resume doing what she can for herself & it's hard to strike a balance between allowing her more independence & making sure she doesn't tax her waning strength.

    She still has headaches - quite bad ones, but prefers to take medication for those only twice a day. Anne gives her something after she's eaten in the morning, been cleaned up & her room straightened up. We give her something at night too to ensure some restful sleep. She's now able to think about & ask about our day's work & is pleased that things are going well. She's fretting being so "useless" but it could easily have been anybody now, couldn't it? And I wouldn't exactly call her 'useless' under any circumstances. I know she hates being a "bother", a burden, but she's a long way from that. It does the kids good to take some time to sit quietly with her, help her out & all. It teaches them some of the gentler human values if nothing else, compassion, caring & she has them reading to her from a child's version of the Bible. That can't possibly hurt a child! Not to mention, it's helping them with their reading. The kids have been working so hard & a few hours with MT gives them a break as well as helping her. We worry less knowing she's not alone in the house. She wouldn't be anyway, Cindy & Louise are there, but we're happier knowing there's someone right in the room with her.

    As exhausted as I am, as we all are, we're very proud of ourselves & the work we've done. There's an awful lot of hard labor ahead of all of us, we know that. I think though, in spite of bruises & blisters, aches & pains, we know we can do it. Drew has our planting schedule all worked out. I'm not sure I want to see it, but it's ready. Monday, he's going to have some of us working in the kitchen garden. Much of the rest of it needs planting; we'll just wait a bit longer for the really tender plants. We've not had a frost for almost two weeks now - sheer luck, Drew tells me. MT calls it Divine Intervention. Drew would actually like to see a bit of rain at this point & it looks as though he may get his wish. I'm pretty sure it's going to rain tonight & perhaps tomorrow.

    If it does, I hope it's a gentle rain that doesn't last all night AND all day. If it were to start now then stop about noon, we'd be delighted. Work takes a holiday tomorrow & not only do we take it easy, but also the whole neighborhoods, all four families, are coming over for the afternoon for a feast & a visit. Drew killed another cow earlier in the week & we'll be roasting some of it, doing ribs & a few hours ago, Andy & Joe were cursing over the old fashioned, hand-cranked meat grinder as they turned slabs of beef into hamburger. The kids might prefer that. Over the winter & spring, it took Cindy about ten tries to get hamburger buns just right, but she's finally done it.

    And that reminds me - how the heck do you make plain old yellow mustard? I haven't a clue & only have about three cases of jars of it left. Sounds like a lot but we have a few mustard lovers here, including the kids & it's going fast. Funny the things you don't think about ahead of time. But you can't think of everything & who anticipated this? I thought I had but in my heart. I really hoped I was being a paranoid idiot. Guess not.

    Having the piglets has been an amusing diversion from the work. Boy those little suckers are fast if they happen to get out of their pen & they've done so a few times. It was comical yesterday watching a dozen people chase two piglets around the yard. It took about half an hour to get both back safely into their pen. They're doing well - eating like... well, pigs & almost visibly growing. We have chicks as well, almost 2 dozen of them now & more on the way. Morgan & Joe built a second coop, one in which we're now keeping the rooster & hens we have sitting on nests. That simplifies things. One coop is full of laying hens & it's from there that we get our eggs & older hens for roasting, or will once our layers are laying lots again & the other coop will be more of a breeding coop.

    Ashley, bloodthirsty little devil, said maybe we should trap & tame rabbits, breeding them for table use. I think that would be giving ourselves too much work & in any case, the edges of the fields have no shortage of bunnies. Later we'll shoot & perhaps trap some. Rabbit is a misery to pick clean but tastes good. What with cattle, horses, dogs, three piglets & our chickens, we have enough critters for now.

    Almost everyone is either in bed or sitting quietly comparing blisters & bruises - a bit of a game of "can you bottom this?" bottom as in: "my blisters are worse than YOURS are!" We all have bad ones. The kids carried buckets & buckets of potato sets & anyone who raked has blisters on blisters. Anne says within a few more weeks, we should all have calluses thick enough to shingle the roof! I don't doubt it. And if you think anyone is having trouble sleeping, think again. Last night, I asked Anne a question & she fell asleep halfway through her answer!

    It's hardest on those doing nightly guard duty. They're doing a lot of walking just to stay awake & that's not always working either. Noreen walked right into the elm tree yesterday. She swears she was awake but Jean says she couldn't have been. I've heard of that happening but always thought it was a tall tale. I guess not. Jean has a nice black eye to prove it. We're all sporting a collection of lumps & bumps as well as blisters & aches & strains that don't show. All the kids have cuts & Anne is having a devil of a time keeping up to them. She's concerned about the kids washing the cuts & scrapes well especially after Jared scraped his thigh, chose to work on & didn't clean it until the next day. He's got a nice little skin infection, or rather an infected area under the scab. It's swollen around the edges & Anne says tomorrow morning, she'll put a warm compress on it to soften the scab, then clean it out properly. I think Jared is plotting ways to not be anywhere Anne is! Seriously, it's not a bad infection, but Anne wasn't happy with him. It doesn't take much to set up a really nasty infection, especially when we're in the dirt most days & tired too.

    We've got everybody on one a day type vitamins for now, just in case. We're trying to eat right but as tired as we are, transferring food from plate to stomach is all we're concerned with & I trust Cindy & Louise are being thoughtful about what they put on our plates. We're running low on some things & as a result are getting some really odd pickled items showing up on our plates. I spat something out last night. It was red in color, looked okay but man! - way too sour for me. Morgan happily grabbed mine & traded me some corn relish that I was able to get down. And did I mention I was sick of rice? Boiled rice, fried rice, rice with strange bits of veggies in it, rice pudding, rice cobbler(!), ACK! They promised next week we'd get more pasta. They've been saving some of the canned spaghetti sauce & I can hardly wait for a big spaghetti feed with homemade garlic bread.

    The kids are going fishing tomorrow with Sam, Morgan & Alex so hopefully Monday we'll have some fish. Damn, I'm going to miss lemons! We have lots of lemon juice left though & Noreen has lemon thyme growing that she's planning on saving in dried form for when we run out of our lemon juice. The other thing we're getting short on is hot chocolate powder. We all became somewhat addicted to the stuff this winter but as of this week, we're rationing ourselves.

    I can't believe how quickly we're going through some things. Noreen, Cindy, Louise & Maxine are going to spend some time Monday doing another inventory of what we have & try to figure out how long certain items may last. It's a given that we'll run out of some food items before we have any hope of replacing them. Most of those don't fall under the category of necessities however I really want to know how much we have of items like salt. If we're running low, we need to get more fast & if we can't much determine if we can make it somehow. Always something else.

    Anne had all of use get on the scale after supper tonight. I can't believe it; I'm at 175 pounds, not bad for a man 5'10" tall. I look lighter than that but have been gaining muscle & that weighs more than fat. Everyone has lost weight, excepting the children & our expectant moms. Cindy has gained almost 40 pounds & says she feels every ounce of it. Louise has gained about 20 or so. I hope that means healthy babies - I must ask Anne. We're all eating like truck drivers, sleeping well & in spite of the horrendous amount of work we're doing, we're managing. The first week was a complete hellish mightmare for all of us. I've never seen so many tired people stumbling around. Andy tells me he was in the outhouse, needed toilet paper & had to think for about a minute to remember there were 6 spare rolls on the shelf right over his head.

    The kids regained their bounce the fastest of course, followed by the teenagers. It seems we acclimatizing to the work, all of us, but how fast we feel normal again depends on our age & previous level of physical labor. Morgan & I are having the toughest time & Anne is several days behind us as she started late with the planting work. Almost everyone else is almost ready to say that planting is a 'normal' day of work. I noticed in the last few days, a few people had enough energy to chat a bit after supper before heading off to complete evening chores & get to bed.

    I'll be curious to speak with the other families, to ask them if they're noticing the same thing about energy levels. I'm looking forward to the gathering tomorrow. Part of me is desperate to put in a few hours of work in the morning, before we all relax together but if our forefathers found it best to take a day of rest every Sunday, we'll follow their example. For on the seventh day, even God rested according to Genesis. Monday is time enough to get back to work & we'll be busy enough tidying up tomorrow morning.

    Before we get busy with that, we'll help MT into the front room & hold a short service. We want to thank God for her recovery, for the good weather we've enjoyed while planting & the bounty He has so far bestowed upon us. We want to further thank Him for our good neighbors & pray for His continued Dive help as we continue with our work. In spite of the months of hard work facing us, we have much to thank him for.

    I had a disturbing chat with Annette yesterday after supper. It was short, as we're both tired, but gave me much to think about. She's been pretty quiet since the neighbors visited & I wondered if it has anything to do with those two girls or if it was simply fatigue. It was the girls in large part. She asked me if I thought she was "old fashioned" & "boring"?!? Not being sure where that came from, I asked he to explain what she meant by that. It seems those 2 'young ladies' spent a fair bit of time snickering at how she was dressed, how much work she did & said they thought she was like a little old lady. She was boring because she didn't want to come over & 'hang out' with them & her dress was sooooooooooooo, like 100 years ago. The poor kid. She may be smart & maturing quickly, but few girls her age have any deeply rooted self-confidence & hers took a hard hit. After all, they're the only "peers" she has close by.

    I asked her how she answered their questions & she said she was kind of mad at herself because she didn't have any snappy answers for them. Well what DID she say? I had to ask her. She said she eventually mumbled something about there being a lot of work & she didn't plan on starving this winter. All of us were working hard & she'd feel ashamed if she sat on her ass, (her words), all day acting like some spoiled princess. Well, I thought that was a GREAT answer, but being fifteen, I think she was looking for a quicker, nastier comeback. I know the girls where I taught did. For a couple of years, it seems the younger ones think it's cool to be as big a b*tch as possible. Thankfully, most of them outgrow that fairly quickly.

    I mentioned to her that smirks & snide words aside, they two girls have been seen working their lazy little butts off the past week or so & it's clear that a fair bit of work is going on next door. Drew went over to check how they were making out with the tractor - pretty darned good was what he reported. Their furrows aren't the best he's ever seen, but they're straight enough to plant potatoes & Drew reluctantly gave them some to plant. Ours are getting beyond eating now anyway, so between those & the ones Drew located for them in a root cellar, they have enough, if they're careful, to go through the winter. They've also got winter wheat coming up nicely - most farms around here do have fields planted in it. Drew said normally they'd be spraying something or other as a pesticide but this year, it's cross your fingers & pray instead.

    Around here they plant something called red winter wheat - okay. Drew says it's resistant to a fair number of infections, blights & what not & can yield a lot of bushels per acre. I'll have to take his word for it & wonder how well it's going to yield with us having to harvest it by hand. We've got to think hard about milling it too. I can just imagine how well an old fashioned water driven mill would be received around here & a miller would be worth his weight in gold. Instead, I think we're going to end up doing a lot of pounding & cursing. Well we should have the muscles for it by then.

    Next week, we'll be planting a lot of cabbage type stuff - cabbages & related plants. Drew mentioned cabbage, Brussel sprouts, kale, spinach, turnip & chard. We also have to think about putting in turnips, onion, leeks, and beets, early corn, then we can get into the crops that like it hotter - stuff like lima beans, snap beans, cucumber, more lettuce, melons, sweet peppers, pumpkin, squash & tomatoes. Pumpkins & squash we'll interplant in the corn & the kids have already piled up some of the cattle bedding in long compost heaps & are trying those seeds there now. The heat from the rotting manure should give them a good start & they'll be somewhat sheltered from the wind.

    There are lots of things we COULD plant & lack only the time, seed & right now, the imagination. We'll have enough to do & we pray that others may find they have a surplus of items they'd like to trade for things we have. Imagine the idea of old fashioned farm markets every week throughout late summer & early fall? I'm not sure what we'll do for cash - greenbacks have rather lost their luster, but trade will certainly go over well.

    However, these are concerns for next week & the coming weeks & months & join an ever-increasing list of things to worry about. Right now, I'd best worry about getting a good night of sleep. It's not quite ten & if I go to bed now, I can get a whole 8 or 9 hours of sleep - sheer luxury! Good night world; hello pillows!
    More of my thoughts on flu/health matters and the latest news can be found at [url=]The Laboratory[/url].

  35. #195
    Join Date
    May 2001
    Kingston, Ontario, Canada

    after supper, 18/05/03

    Boy, did it ever feel good to get a break today. Mark & I even got some time to take a ride up to the woods - that was fun! We all slept in, sort of; I woke up just after six & couldn't get back to sleep even though I knew I didn't have to do a whole lot today. Most of us were up by seven thirty or so, although Uncle Andy & Jake slept until after eight. We teased them all day about that!

    We had a nice, SLOW breakfast this morning, after we watered, fed & checked all the animals. My horses are all looking great, especially the babies. With grass growing quickly now, they're having fun nipping at it & running through it. I swear they have races sometimes & don't understand why the calves won't join in. The calves are really growing quickly & uncle Drew is looking forward to trading some of them later this summer & fall. Right now, we have a whole bunch of bull calves & Drew says we'll keep 2 of them to use as ... bulls. The rest we'll trade or slaughter for meat for ourselves. He still has to figure out exactly how many we'll keep over the winter. What he also has to do he explained to me was trade some of his cows for others. He said if we keep breeding the same cows to the same bulls, the cattle would get inbred. That means there would be cousins breeding with cousins, brothers with sisters, etc. Yuck, that's gross! Uncle Drew says it's not the gross part that worries him but the fact that they'd eventually start getting sick & small & weak. I'll have to review some of my biology notes. I THINK I know what he's talking about, but I'm not 100% sure.

    The little pigs are SO cute. I can't bear to think that they'll be turned into bacon this fall - that's just too nasty. I'm being a wimp. I love ham & bacon & maybe I'll just stay away from the barn when they have to be killed & cleaned & stuff. Some things I don't think I'm ready for yet & that's one of them. I think I can handle killing chickens. Aunt Noreen grabbed me after lunch & said that sometime in the next few weeks, we were going over to the Harrisons where I was going to learn how to kill them quickly, pluck & gut them & cut them up for use in the kitchen. Yuck! But I think I can handle it. I'd better be able to. If not, I'm going to feel like a real baby. Aunt Noreen said it took her months before she felt okay doing it. She barfed, cried & all that but she also said some thing we just have to do, like it or not. Oh great!

    Grandma also told me she wants me there when Aunts Cindy & Louise have their babies & how did I feel about that? I'm not completely sure. I'm really excited but I'm not sure how much I'll be able to help. Gram has given me a couple of books to read through when I have time - yeah, maybe sitting in the outhouse! The first one is a review of how babies develop & covers some of what she spoke about but in more detail. The really neat one explains exactly what happens during labor & delivery, how much both the mother & baby's bodies change in a very few hours - awesome! There's a big section in that book on how to help moms get through each stage of labor - I checked the table of contents & the last part talks about things that could go wrong. There's a whole lot of those! Gram said to read & know that but not to worry about it too much. Most women have no problems, as having babies is not a sickness, just a natural part of life. I never really thought about it, but I guess she's right.

    Boy, this morning was nice. We all got the chance to take a nice hot shower. I brought in some water, bucket after bucket for about an hour, then decided to wait until after my ride to get cleaned up. The horses haven't finished shedding yet & what if I fell off. It would be just like me to end up in the only puddle of mud around for miles. Mark has suggested we go for a good long ride, maybe a few hours. I wasn't sure mom would let me go that long, but she said to go ahead, after I helped Cindy & Louise get ready for our guests. Both the ones across the road & the Harrisons said they'd need to stay home until one or so & mom said that should give us plenty of time to get our ride in without rushing. I promised of course, that I'd be careful. She just gave me a hug & said she knew I would be. Kind of nice to know she trusts me to be smart about stuff.

    We decided to leave by nine thirty & try to be home by noon, so we could get cleaned up & help with final preparations. Mom said the Greenes might show up early but not to worry about it, the kids would keep their kids busy & I'd probably want some time to have fun before Farrah & Chelsea showed up. Boy, she doesn't know the half of it! Mark let me take the younger gelding. He warned me I'd really have to pay attention to what I was doing, as the horse really likes to MOVE. He also said once we got a bit of mileage on the horses & they calmed down a bit, we'd play over some little fences. He's let me pop over a few logs in the corral & I was SO excited to think I could try it in the woods!

    We walked the horses for about 10 minutes, then trotted them up the fence line to the edge of the woods. It's so pretty in the woods now. There are flowers everywhere & I'm glad there's a couple of little pathways in there. Uncle Drew says a lot of kids play in there & you can see old tree forts & stuff. And there are lots of different little pathways to ride through. I just had to be careful to not get branches in the head or in my eyes. The horses loved being in the woods. Their heads swiveled everywhere; drinking in new sites & smells. Other than trying to eat pretty spring flowers, they behaved fairly well.

    When we got to the other side of the woods, Mark looked over the pasture Drew has back there & asked if I felt up to moving a bit faster, a slow gallop. I sure did! He warned me that my gelding might not recognize slow, so to let him lead - usually younger horses will stay behind an older one. He warned me if the horse really took off, to pull fairly strongly on ONE rein; that should get the horse circling & it would eventually slow down & stop. We did gallop but only for about five minutes & thank God, because I'm still not very good at it. I tend to bounce all over the saddle. We did that twice & it was a bit easier the second time.

    We went back to the woods then, dismounted & dragged a couple of small logs across one of the wider trails. Mark had me trot up to them & pop over. I'd never done two right after another like that - it was kind of neat. Then he dragged the two logs together & added some branches on top making a little jump about 2 & a half feet high. That was tougher; I fell off the first time I tried it. He made sure I was okay, then talked me through what I should do & showed me a few times. I managed it then & we spent about 20 minutes just doing that. It's lots of fun & I'm looking forward to doing more. Later, maybe next Sunday. Right now, any riding we do is for work. He told me if I was riding out to fields or something, once my chore was done, if I found a little log to pop over on the way back, I could & should - but just little ones.

    I hated to come back, wasn't keen on spending an afternoon with those 2 girls next door, but we finally did head back. We put the horses away & got ourselves cleaned up - loved that shower. Mom had me make sure all the kids were more or less clean, help MT with anything & I told her I'd appreciate a chance to be excused to look after MT some time today; I didn't think I could handle a whole afternoon & part of the evening with those two! I didn't think I'd said anything funny but she actually laughed. Seems Alex & Mark asked for the same thing! No wonder - they're nasty!

    Anyway, I wore that dress again. I love it & if they think it looks too old fashioned or little girl - tough! Alex told me it makes me look grown-up, the REAL kind of grown up & so did Morgan! As much as I wasn't crazy about seeing those 2 again, I was excited about meeting everybody else. The Greenes were already there & I really like Mrs. Greene. Funny, she's a lot younger but she reminds me of Gram MT is a lot of ways. Mom asked me, after I was cleaned up & all if I'd ask MT if she would mind if Mrs. Greene came up to say hello & introduce herself. I ended up bringing Mrs. Greene upstairs & she & Gram MT hit it off right away. That was cool. They told me to go away & let them visit, so I did. I told them I'd come up in a bit to see if they needed anything. I know Mrs. Greene thought she should be helping downstairs, but she'd brought a lovely chocolate cake for the kids, a huge one in a big metal pan with loads of icing & coconut frosting. She also brought a salad! She's got a sunroom & said she started lettuce, spring onions & stuff weeks ago just so we'd have an early treat. She brought piles of different cookies too & some potato thingies that turned out to be really good.

    The Harrisons showed up fairly soon after & it was a bit confusing as we all introduced ourselves to each other. I'm still not sure I got all the names straight. The Merriwethers & Runnings showed up just after we got all our introductions done & boy was the house full. It had been raining earlier this morning & we were all glad it stopped 'cause we could send the kids out. We'd decided to have our meal first, then spend the rest of the afternoon visiting & snacking instead of having a proper supper. The Harrisons left one of the men at home & said after a few hours, one of the ones at our place would go over home & send the one on guard - Sean I think, back to enjoy some food & company.

    I can't remember when I've last been with so many people at once & it was almost scary. I couldn't help but think about all the warnings we'd had about avoiding crowds when The Outbreak was just starting. Now I know all here have either had smallpox or been vaccinated & no one is rushing out to spend time with strangers, but it still felt WRONG to be with so many other people all at the same time.

    Dinner was hectic. We all sat whereever we could find room, the kids chose to sit on the porch & some of the guys did too. We insisted the ones who'd prepared the meal sit & visit - the rest of us served & cleaned up. I wasn't expecting the two girls to help, but they did. Maybe pigs CAN fly, as Gram MT would say! Boy, did we go through a mountain of food. Cleanup didn't take long though. Dad had made sure we had lots of water heating, so dishes were easy.

    I don't know really, why I bothered with the dress, 'cause I had to change right after supper. Uncle Drew asked Mark & me to show everyone who was interested the horses. They come right up to the fence if you whistle, even the babies & it's cool to watch them all come trotting up. I don't think the foals appreciated all those people but they eventually came right up to us & let themselves be admired.

    We gave everyone the grand tour while the last of the kitchen cleanup was being done & that being done, we all went back into the house for coffee or tea & talking. Dad sent the kids out to play after they had a snack & drink & all us teenaged type people went out on the porch. There are twelve of us & most are guys, which is kind of funny. The other girl I just met properly today. I'd seen her when I went for mom at the Harrisons last week, but this was the first time we had a chance to talk. Can she ever handle those two girls! They still are snotty & sneered at Jackie's hair. They're just jealous as Jackie has gorgeous hair - a really nice reddish blonde. Okay, so it was a mess & about the only changing she had done was put on clean pants & a light sweater. No makeup but she doesn't need it. She'd put her hair back in a ponytail, but it's a bit short & did stick out a bit. I liked what she said to Chelsea when Chelsea asked when she'd last dyed it that weird red color. Chelsea knows perfectly well it's not dyed. Jackie said she doesn't dye her hair, but if she ever decided she wanted weird red, she'd ask Chelsea for a color number. That shut Chelsea up, especially when the guys snickered.

    Those two girls are such showoffs. They couldn't stand it when any of the guys were talking to us instead of them & kept trying to interrupt by saying the most outrageous things. Farrah said it was kind of cool living like this because we were grownups now. We could get married & everything if we felt like it & get our own places, even. Sure, maybe, but I'm having enough trouble dealing with what we've got now, never mind living with just a husband. I'd be scared to try that & I said so. She said: "Yeah, but you’re kind of babyish anyway, right? You always do what your mommy tells you & that kind of stuff?" I was furious but I didn't have to answer. Mark shut her up by saying: "Yeah she does what her mommy tells her, that way her daddy doesn't have to slap her because she's acting like a spoiled brat." She knew EXACTLY what he meant by that.

    Oh they kept trying to turn the conversation back to them, but it didn't work. After a while we started talking about school kind of stuff. All of us are trying to do some kind of studying or reading, except for those two & Alex finally told them, politely though, that if they didn't want to talk about stuff like that fine, but WE did & could just wait until we spoke of something else. I almost felt sorry for them then, but not for long.

    We eventually started talking about other stuff, just how weird it was to think back to life before The Outbreak, how much our lives have changed. It's true. By now we'd have been doing final exams. I feel bad for those who would have finishing high school & getting ready for college. They're kind of at loose ends & they feel like they don't know what to do next; maybe they feel more that way than most of us do. Right now, it's like they're treading water. We don't know how long it's going to take for things to get back to normal. I'm not sure, honestly, that we ever will. I'm beginning to wonder if I really want it to.

    I guess I'd better explain that.

    There's a lot of things I miss. I miss school & didn't expect to miss that! I miss the phone & I miss having a ton of free time. I wonder what I'd do with it now though, all that time I had before to just hang. Sitting around talking doesn't make much sense to me anymore. You can talk while you're working - we all do & we're not short of interesting conversations. I used to hate being around the real grownups, but now I feel like I'm almost like them in a lot of ways. I'm sure not doing kiddy work & I understand now a bit about how scary it is to be grownup. It's like, people expect you to have a lot of answers that you don't have. In our group, if someone doesn't know, they just SAY so & you know what? That's okay. They just try to find someone who does know. Sometimes we have arguments when two people or more have different answers to one problem. So then we sit down & talk it out. We try to find the answer or solution that makes the most sense. For us now, that usually means what takes the least amount of time or energy. Sometimes we're wrong but we don't scream at anyone. We just try something else.

    I feel a bit more comfortable asking adults stuff when I don't know something. One of them usually has the answer & if not, we spend time trying to find it. Some of them even ask ME questions! Usually about the horses. That feels good. I get along pretty good with everybody. Even Jean & I are okay now. We didn't really hit it off at first, but I just didn't know how to take her & she had some issues she told me about. God, she's been through a rough time! No wonder she didn't like talking to me at first.

    Oh oh, one of the kids is coming from the back field yelling his lungs out. Trouble, I think.
    More of my thoughts on flu/health matters and the latest news can be found at [url=]The Laboratory[/url].

  36. #196
    Join Date
    May 2001
    Kingston, Ontario, Canada

    after supper, Sunday the 18th

    Boy, I never thought I'd be writing a diary entry in the bath. Luckily my stomach is sticking waaaaay out of the water & it makes a great rest for the clipboard! Joe's a sweetie. He saw I was tired & he must have figured the baby was kicking hard because he suggested I get into a nice hot tub. He'd already sneaked the water in & had it heating on our little wood stove in the kitchen. Lovely! I've got some bubbles in here, a couple of candles for both light & atmosphere & I hope I don't get the paper wet!

    It's been hectic around here & both Louise & I have felt guilt watching everybody drag themselves back from the field. I tried to sneak out to help the kids, but Morgan spotted me & "sent me back to the kitchen". We've been trying to make up for not being able to help out in the fields by cooking good meals for them. They've been too tired to appreciate that for the most part, but we KNOW we've done well & now that they're getting used to the workload, they're a little more alert at meal ties.

    We've taken over making beds, tidying rooms, cleaning bathrooms as best we can, all fairly light work when you have to allow for another couple of feet of maneuvering room & your balance ain't what it used to be, it slows you down. I can't even see the floor I'm sweeping these days & the baby must be sweating, as it's hard to keep him/her away from the fires.

    I really appreciated being waited on during the meal & having others clean the kitchen. I get SICK of soapy water, scummy water, dustpans & everything else associated with cleaning up after a houseful of people. They didn't notice until today, but Louise & I still managed to keep the worst of the weeds out of the kitchen garden. We simply pulled hoes through the weeds & cut them off at ground level. We didn't dare get down to ground level - I'm not sure either of us would get up too easily. We both have really "kicky" babies. I must have a wall to wall bruise inside my uterus. We both tend to say: "OOF!" at strange times & have learned to ignore each other's muttered curses. That & our increasingly frequent trips to the outhouse.

    We missed speaking with everyone - there hasn't been much time for casual chat. MT liked to see us from time to time but we didn't want to tire her out either. She still needs time to recover & the best way to do that is to sleep when she can. I know she misses being more actively involved but she understands the need for patience. As she put it, understanding it doesn't equate to HAVING it! I know what she means.

    I figure I'm due at the end of next month - I've got to be. I look like anyone I've ever seen over seven months along & talk about lacking patience, I want this OVER WITH! I can handle 24 hours or so of pain, really I can. I can't handle this beached whale routine. I want to see my toes again & be able to hug someone closer than at arms' length.

    I expect events have been fairly well documented here by others - no need to repeat all of that. I'm not ready to speculate on the whole 'what's next' idea either, so I'll take the "low road" & talk about people. Think of this as an old-fashioned gossip session from back in 2003! I'm pretty comfy with everyone here or am now. I was intimidated by most of them at first but then I wasn't seeing past my own selfish problems & really they weren't as bad. I'd like to think it was out-of-control hormones or something. I spent a couple of months acting like a big, spoiled baby. I'm trying to make up for it now & hope I am. I'm pretty sure most of them wanted to give me a good spanking for a while!

    I'm so glad I have Louise to share whines with. We both have the same symptoms & don't mid hearing about the other's minor complaints. It would be fun if we had our babies at more or less the same time, but I don't think it's going to work out that way. I'm starting to get a bit nervous about being a mom. Okay I'm lying; I'm really nervous about it. I really don't know that much about babies. Anne says no one does really, not until they have them & she keeps reassuring me that there's lots of help available. Thank God for that! I'm worried - this will sound silly - that I'll break something, that I'll accidentally be too rough or dress it too cold or feed it wrong or something. I mean if it's hurting or sick all it can is cry. How am I supposed to figure out what's wrong. Louise feels the same way & Jake is as edgy as she is. Joe is too calm - I could bop him one!

    I very much enjoyed meeting everybody today, but wow! All those people! Talk about a crowd. Lisa was great to meet. Her little one is so tiny. Mine feels like it's got to be way bigger than that although when I think of it coming out of me you know where - suddenly her baby seemed HUGE! She brought it up to my room & she, Louise & I had a great chat about babies. I was so sorry to hear she lost her husband & little one to The Outbreak & I hope this baby makes it easier for her. I noticed one of the men at their place; David his name is, seemed AWFULLY protective of her. I wonder? Oh it's none of my business, but she seems too nice to stay alone forever & he sure loves to hold that baby. We've had a birth, far too many funerals; a wedding would be lovely.

    Lisa was pretty frank about this whole labor thing. She said it wasn't fun but that the worst was right when it's almost over anyway. She told us getting some exercise was the best way to deal with it. We'd hoped Farrah would join us, she's pregnant too; but she didn't seem the least bit interested. I hope she gets interested soon; motherhood is a big responsibility. Lisa "let" me change a dirty diaper. Gross! I didn't realize breast-feeding made for such disgusting diaper "fillings". I asked her how often she has to feed the baby, change diapers & all of that. Lisa said Sarah, that's her new daughter's name is eating about every three hour(!) & filling diapers about as often. She says she cleans her up once a day then tidied her in the evening & yes, a ton of laundry is being produced. Oh joy... not! Everybody tells me that passes quickly though & that I'll have help. Yes maybe, but I hate to disturb anyone else sleeping if the baby cries. After all, they'll be the ones putting in slave labor in the fields for a while. I won't be of much help thee until the baby is at least a few months old - maybe during harvest. I suspect I'll be stuck in the house until spring though & even then, the baby will be crawling & will need to be watched. Do you know what we DON'T have? One or more of those little baby harnesses - the kind that let you leash up the baby so it can't go to far. I'd prefer to use one of those than to find she's crawled in among the cows! Did I say she... have to laugh, I'd LOVE a girl. Joe doesn't care one way or another.

    I enjoyed meeting all of the Harrisons, whether they were Harrisons or not. The Greenes seem really nice too & I'm looking forward to finding out from Keisha how she keeps her three in line. They are so well behaved. She & Grandmother MT really hit it off well & I was glad to see that. Mrs. Golightly is also turning into a good friend for GMT, (short form) & I'm looking forward to her being able to get up & spend more time downstairs. We can always help Mrs. Golightly walk over here.

    We women got a bit cattish & spent some time gossiping about the Merriwethers & Runnings, especially those 2 girls! Oh man, are they petulant little brats! I've seen them 'working' myself but a slug could move faster. I think she should have been spanked more often as kids & maybe not to spoiled. Their parents don't look any more relaxed than they did last visit. Someone needs to take those two in hand before they cause real problems for those families. The four children over there don't seem so bad, just a little undirected? I suspect the parents are simply too busy to teach them what they need to know properly - if that makes sense.

    Dad is already speaking with the other adults about schooling. He'd love to set up some kind of school this winter. None of us live terribly far from anyone else & if all the kids could get together even a couple of days a week, Dad could set them all up with lesson plans & use the time together for checking work & progress & doing some group teaching. I'd love to see the adults get involved in that. We could all teach them some things & dad agrees. So do the other adults. I suspect the immediate neighbors would just be glad to get the teens out from underfoot & dad's going to have his hands full with those two. I doubt they even want any part of it, but that's not my concern. I know Dad won’t take any carp. If they want to work & learn, they can show up, If they're here to flirt & cause trouble, he'll pack them off back home.

    Oh damn, their goes my bath! There's one heck of a kerfluffle going on outside. I'd better get up & see what's going on...
    More of my thoughts on flu/health matters and the latest news can be found at [url=]The Laboratory[/url].

  37. #197
    Join Date
    May 2001
    Kingston, Ontario, Canada

    evening, 19/05/03

    Anne here, frantically writing down bits of information while trying to catch my breath. What an eventful 24 or more hours we've had - too eventful & we're left with some real quandaries here.

    Here's what happened. The kids were up at the back of the home field, near but not in the edge of the woods. They heard something & got spooked & Jared, (idiot!), decided to check it out. He found a young couple sitting under a tree, looking really scared, tired & hungry. That caused him to lose any bravery her might have felt going in & it was he tearing across the field, yelling at the top of his lungs, followed at a distance by the others that caused the initial commotion. It took a few minutes for him to calm down enough & catch enough breath to tell us what he saw. In the meantime, he kept pointing at the woods.

    When he could breathe, he told us about the people he saw & Drew, Joe, Andy & Sam grabbed their guns & headed up there to see what was going on with "the skinny gut & the lady with the HUGE tummy!" The 'huge tummy' was in advanced labor & her young boyfriend/husband - haven't sorted that one out yet was trying to do what he could for her. Drew sent Joe & Andy back for me & something on which we could carry the young lady - her name is Leslie & we got her back here pretty much just in time. Within an hour, we had us a brand new baby in the kitchen, a little boy they haven't named yet. The new dad, once he got over his faint, was caught between feeling delighted & terrified of all of us.

    We'd sent the kids up to their room by that point & let mom know what was going on. She did pretty much what I figured she'd do - went right to her bible & prayed. I shooed everyone out except for Louise. She's a little more mobile than Cindy & Cindy tends to get really pale under stress - doesn't look good when you've got a new mom about to deliver. Morgan was great with Graham, the expectant father. Noreen had cleared the table & built up the fire a bit & put some padding & some old sheets on the table. She had some chairs all ready for Louis, myself & a couple more spares. Annette tried to sneak away, but I told her to stay, that I'd need her help to fetch things.

    Leslie apparently had been in labour since just before dawn. Those two have been on the road for weeks trying to get away from Chicago & God only knows how they made it this far. We'll have time to discover that later. She was in hard, hard labor but not completely dilated yet, stress & fatigue I think. She was starving but in no shape to eat, so all we gave her was water & some juices. Morgan coaxed Louis into a bowl of soup, which he promptly threw up outside. Morgan got that mess cleaned up, then got Louis into the shower & into clean clothes. I swear he stood outside the shower & talked him through every step, alternating that with reassurances that no one here bites & that they were okay - nothing to worry about. He knew by then I was a nurse & that I've seen deliveries before. That wasn't stretching it too much!

    The delivery itself was pretty rough on the poor girl. That was a BIG baby; well over nine pounds & she ripped pretty badly, in spite of my best efforts to prevent that. It seems when the baby finally decided to come out; he wasn't waiting on any of us to be ready, including his poor mom. I've cleaned her up & stitched her up as best I can & she's resting now, but man, what a night! Between Louis fainting, her tearing & losing a fair bit of blood & the baby apparently a real screamer, I don't think anyone got much sleep. And this was after another busy day in the fields with the kids out only to get a bit of fresh air before bed; to help digest their meal so to speak.

    Then there was mom. She still needs to be checked on & I really felt torn. Leslie was the obvious priority but my heart was with mom. Thankfully, she's far enough along in the recovery process so I don't feel I have to be there all the time - not that I don't want to be. Still, once the uproar was calming down, I managed to get up to see mom & let her know what was going on.

    It wasn't until about eleven last night that we had all the children sleeping & most of the adults as well. Annette stayed up to help me out & Alex & Joe were sent out on guard duty as being younger & best able, as a pair, to handle working today on top of guard duty. I stayed up too, just snatching catnaps when I could. Mom slept well & I wish I could say the same, but I was too wound up & concerned over our surprise guests.

    Leslie is quite weak. She lost a fair bit of blood & according to Louis, it's been some time since they've had a proper meal. I believe it - they both look so drawn & skinny. That certainly didn't help Leslie, although the baby seems fine. Loud but fine. I'm not a doctor but felt it couldn't hurt to start an IV on Leslie. She needs fluids & energy, especially with a new baby to feed. I had to wait for Mike to show up to stitch her up. She tore badly & the stitching she needed I felt, was beyond me. She wasn't bleeding too badly, just more or less oozing & I hoped ice packs, (chemical) & cold compresses would keep it from getting too bad.

    Mike did come in early & after making sure mom was okay, checked out Leslie, Louis & the new baby. He's pleased with the baby's health & says if we can get Leslie's strength up, they'll both do fine. Louis just needs food, rest & support. "Just" needs all those things - I already feel overwhelmed.

    Here's what today looked like. As yesterday, our planting crews were out early in the fields - a little more tired than usual. Cabbages, peas, other stuff such as that are going in. Some teams were busy weeding the kitchen garden. Weeds always seem to grow faster than the wanted plants, don't they? It's hard to figure out which is which at times, but Morgan, Noreen & Drew helped with that. They've also started transplanting the seedlings from the rooms upstairs into the garden & hope to finish that by the end of the week.

    We have more chicks & are letting a few more hens sit on eggs. Chickens don't take up much room or feed & we need to build up our numbers. Drew wants to exchange some of our fertilized eggs with those of nearby farmers to slow down the rate of inbreeding. We've already done that with Wade, exchanged eggs that is. He has a different breed of chickens; don't ask me which! The piglets are growing like... weeds, as are the calves.

    Morgan stayed 'home' today to lend a hand with the newcomers. Louis is a really nervous type, may be reasons there but I don't know & he seems most at ease with Morgan. Morgan urged him to take another shower as the one he had the previous evening was really rushed. Before that of course, we gave him some more soup - just a bit as it seems they'd been three days without food before Leslie went into labor. He ate a bit at a time all day; Morgan making sure he didn't overdo it at any one time.

    Mike told me, once he'd finished examining & stitching up Leslie that he was concerned about her developing an infection. She wasn't nearly as clean as we would have liked, ripped badly & is worn right out. We've left the intravenous in & have started her on clear soups today & juices with a bit of sugar added for calories. The poor dear is just exhausted what with all that travel, starving, labor & delivery & who knows what else.

    We had to scramble a bit to make room for them. The boys, Alex & Mark, volunteered to sleep in the loft for a time until we can figure out what we're going to do here. So, we cleared out their things & moved Leslie, Louis & the baby up there. It's quieter & Leslie can rest. If that baby ever gives her a chance! It has an absolutely voracious appetite & her milk may be a bit longer coming in. Mike told me to start her on light stews & perhaps a bit of bread tomorrow. If she handles that, we'll slowly increase her intake. Louis he said can eat what he feels like, but often & in small quantities - until he body gets some rest & adjustment time.

    Annette & I were able to give Leslie a half-decent bed bath this afternoon. Poor thing was ashamed to be so dirty but goodness, how was she supposed to bathe? She feels a lot better now & we've removed most of the grime. Clean underthings & a nightie helped too & I may try to wash her hair tomorrow, if she feels up to it. She tells us that under the dirt & grease, it's dishwater blonde; you'd never know it! The baby is sleeping in a large laundry basket right now, right beside the bed & padded with blankets, soft sheets & such.

    Now, what the heck are we going to do with these three new people? All we know about them is that they made their way here from Chicago, have no more than the clothes on their backs & those are only fit for the fire & now they have a newborn. They're very young, I doubt they're any older than Alex is. They're weak, starving & scared to death. None of us want to tell them to leave but can we afford to feed more people? Can they earn their keep? So many questions & too few answers. Mom isn't finding it difficult. In her opinion, God sent them, they stay. Period. The rest she said, is mere details.

    I wish it were that easy. The only room we have left is the one out the back we'd turned into & have kept as a sickroom. I feel as though we'd be tempting fate to let them use that room, but we have few options if they're to stay. Are they decent people & can we trust them? I can't see them vanishing in the middle of the night with a significant amount of our stuff. They're too weak & a newborn makes that almost impossible. But once they have a bit of time to recover, can they work? Are they willing to do that?

    We still need to speak with them & learn what we can of them. Morgan has said he'll take Louis with him tomorrow as the works continues & see what information he can get from him. The kids aren't spooked by him & there's an old saying about dogs & little children 'knowing', isn't there? I'm too tired to think straight & Tom wants me to get some sleep tonight. Jean will see to Leslie & Mom & Tom himself, along with Jake have the duty tonight. Perhaps they can hash something out talking it over.

    Whatever decision we make, the sooner we make it the better we'll feel, I'm sure. But now, I'd best check Leslie one more time, mom as well & get to bed.
    More of my thoughts on flu/health matters and the latest news can be found at [url=]The Laboratory[/url].

  38. #198
    Join Date
    May 2001
    Kingston, Ontario, Canada

    20/05/03, after supper

    Well, aren't we having some exciting events lately? I feel sorry for Anne - she's bearing the brunt of the worry right now. All I'm having to do is keep the young lad calmed down & try to convince him that we're not out to hurt him or his pretty young wife. She IS pretty too or will be, once she gets some rest & some good food into her. I'm a tired puppy tonight, more so from all the excitement than work. I've wracked my brains all day trying to be real careful what I said to Louis. She's spooked enough without me adding to that.

    Here's what he's told me. He & the young lady lost all their families & he was terrified she'd get sick, being as she was pregnant & all. But she didn't & neither did he. He had a small apartment in some big building in the suburbs & he managed to get her there safely after one hell of a night crossing from her neighborhood to his. Once he had her home safe, he gave her a shotgun he had, (didn't tell me where he got THAT!), then he headed out to look for food, water & whatever else he could think of. This was some time into The Outbreak, so I expect the city was in pretty bad shape. Louis said it sure was. He spent almost four nights sneaking around & bringing back what food, water & other supplies he could find. He told me when he was done, his little apartment, one bedroom, a small front room & a kitchenette was stacked wall to wall with boxes, cases, crates & loose packages. He was smart enough to put plastic buckets on his balcony & the adjoining ones to collect any snow that fell. He figured that would collect water he could treat with bleach.

    He was lucky in a way. It was an old building & the balconies on every floor were connected. He was able to go from balcony to balcony, peek in & if a place was empty, break in & take what they could use. He lined his walls with quilts, blankets, sleeping bags - anything he thought might keep them warm. They spent their winter living this way, like rabbits huddled in a burrow or in this case, a south-facing apartment. It's wasn't too bad he said, cold, but they managed. He broke into a sporting goods store & came back with arctic rated books, clothing & sleeping bags. They had books, a small Coleman stove & they made out fine.

    They decided to leave when it started warming up. The trip was rough with bad weather, areas they had to avoid & food becoming more & scarcer. They passed people who were also fleeing who didn't make it. Some were sick themselves, others had had accidents & yet other had been shot or worse. They must have been terrified & Leslie had trouble walking. On good days, they made maybe ten miles. On bad days, they sometimes made a half-mile. Finding shelter for the night was always the priority in the late afternoons & that was easier when they had food & water & could carry at least enough firewood to heat up water & a meal.

    The warming weather actually made it harder. They had to detour miles to find ways to cross swollen streams & keeping dry was hard. Louis says they kept having to stop to get more boots, more clean, dry socks & clothing. They saw fewer & fewer people as they got farther from Chicago, but stores of any kind were also harder to find. Often they'd find one & find it had been completely looted. In the last week or so, they found less & less food & Leslie found it tougher to walk.

    They weren't far from here when she went into labor & Louis hoped to find some shelter in the woods. Leslie had pretty much just collapsed when we found them - they had no idea there was a house just a few hundred yards away from where they sat. There's much he's not saying yet, but I can imagine some of what they've seen. We've all seen some pretty bad things these last several months.

    The next few hours must have seemed pretty confusing to both of them. They went from cold, exhausted & hungry & very much alone, to being whisked into a warm, lit house, smelling of supper & more people than they've shared space with in months. Anne & Noreen did the right thing, shooing almost everyone out of the kitchen. Louis was shaking with cold & nerves, right at the end of his strength & it still took me a bit of time to coax him to get cleaned up. What finally did it was telling him, he'd be holding a brand new baby soon - didn't he think it made sense to be cleaned up for that? I guess it did for he took a shower double quick. He looked a bit better for some soap & hot water although he refused to take any time for a shave. He had a beard on him that made him look like one of God's chosen, he surely did.

    It was stupid of me to feed him so fast but boy I could almost feel his stomach touching his backbone. Next time, if there is a next time, I'll know better. In any case, he felt fine enough to be there right at the crucial moment, when that baby just burst out, howling & yowling as if he'd had ENOUGH of all the fuss. Noreen grabbed him & got him wiped up, then wrapped him up & handed him to Louis who held him right beside Leslie. Is there anything more glorious than the face of a man & woman looking at their first born? I had tears in my eyes; I expect we all did, Anne, Louise, Annette, Noreen & me. Noreen took the baby back right quick though & a good thing too. Louis handed him over then slipped to the floor in a dead faint. Worn right out, that poor kid!

    Now there's poor Leslie lying there in sorry shape herself, bleeding like a stuck pig, one screaming baby & a husband passed out cold on the floor. We got him woken up fast enough & got some hot tea into him while Anne took care of what needed doing with Leslie. It only took an hour or so for baby to have his first feed, Louis to get some soup into himself - & keep it down & Leslie to get cleaned up & take a touch of soup herself.

    Meanwhile Tom & Drew cleared out the boys' room & got that set up right nicely for the young couple & their new son. Once everyone was cleaned up, fed & checked out okay, we moved Leslie upstairs. She's light as a feather - can't weight more than 95 pounds & Joe had her tucked into bed before you can say boo! The baby is right beside her in a basket & her husband was right by her side.

    We left them be, just telling them to shout if they needed anything but that we'd leave them alone for a time. We left them a pitcher of juice, some hot tea & more soup in case they got hungry. A new family needs a bit of time together I think, before the world intrudes.

    They were up a fair bit during the night - babies want what they want right away & never mind what anyone else is doing. Jean helped them out - I don't think either of them had ever changed a diaper in their lives & all that squalling from Junior had them scared to death. We were up too & dying to help but Anne told us to leave them to Jean. The less we interfered, the sooner they'd adjust. I guess she's right, but I had a hard time staying in my bed.

    This morning we were all up early, tired or not. Drew had plenty of work for all of us & told me he wanted me to stay near the house, to do some weeding around the kitchen garden & see to Louis & MT. Fair enough & I took a shine to that young man anyway. He may be dumb as dirt, but he seems to have a good heart & I don't think he's all that stupid - just kind of overwhelmed if you know what I mean. I insisted he take another shower once we helped him see to his wife & new son & he tucked into a fine breakfast. I had to tell him to slow down; there was all the food he needed but he'd best go at it slowly.

    I took him on a tour of the place, nice & slow; showing him the animals, pointing out the fields & talking a bit about what we're doing here. He's still worn out, must be. He started crying, really crying & sobbed that he couldn't figure out how we'd managed to do all of this. How could we have pulled it all together like this? He felt so useless faced with all of this. Wasn't too much to tell him other than we had a number of advantages. Drew owned the farm & knew the land. We were all from around here or close by & knew the area & were willing to work to earn our bread.

    We walked around a bit after that, not saying much. I figured he needed time to hoist everything aboard. He still does, a lot happening in such a short time for a young kid like that. He's only 19 & God help us, his 'wife' is just 17. Now I don’t know how all that happened & it's not any of my business but if what I've seen is any indication, this isn't a young man who's going to run out on his lady when she's in trouble.

    As we walked slowly back to the house he stopped me & asked me right out - how long could they stay. I had to answer right out - the answer wasn't up to me & we all hadn't had time to discuss it yet. He told me if we were planning to meet & talk on it, he'd like to say a word in his own favor if he might. That sounded fair enough to me & once everyone finished their day's work, we all did sit down & talk while Louis waited upstairs with Leslie & the baby. I started by saying I didn't think it was fair to leave them hanging - they had enough on their plates to begin with. I feel the same way MT does - they landed on our doorstep so to speak & I feel like we have some responsibility towards them. Most seem to agree.

    I spent the most time with him today, so they asked me most of the questions. I did have work to do today, lots of weeding, some wood & water to haul & I told them he helped out without being asked. All he needed to know was how to do something or where to find things but had been willing enough to work. If anything, I had to tell him to slow up as he's still pretty weak. I took him into the house a few times to feed him up.

    We talked some about it - no one had any real objections so we did a secret vote. Unanimously it was decided to let them stay on these conditions. They have to work for their keep. Initially that's Louis. His young lady needs more time to recover & get used to being a momma. I went straight up to their room to tell them - figured they both needed to know right away & maybe they'd best find out with some privacy. They both burst into tears, followed real fast by Junior. And there I stood like an idiot, scratching my head & stammering that it was okay, it was going to be all right, They were safe now.

    And they are - least ways as safe as we can make them here. I have a good feeling about this. They're young & maybe were right foolish to get in the family way but that's done, they've got a new & big responsibility now & we'll manage it all somehow. I know we will. I snuck off & let MT know - no surprising that woman. She said of course they were staying. It was meant to be. I'm not one to argue with the Almighty or someone who seems to be sitting right with Him, so I just ducked out & mumbled something about coming back later to sit with her a bit before she went to sleep.

    I'd best go do that now. It's late, well not late but it sure feels like it. Tomorrow, Louis is coming out with me again as I finish weeding the kitchen garden with the kids in tow. I'm not sure what Drew has planned for most of them but I won't argue with my job. I'm not as young as I used to be & trying to settle this young man down some is taking a toll on me. I hope he settles in fast - he's got a lot to learn but seems willing. Now, off to visit with MT.
    More of my thoughts on flu/health matters and the latest news can be found at [url=]The Laboratory[/url].

  39. #199
    Join Date
    May 2001
    Kingston, Ontario, Canada

    evening, 21/05/03

    Another day, another dollar... spent! That used to be one of my dad's favorite sayings. In our case it's another day, another blister. I'm having trouble finding any part of my hands not blistered these days. I have blisters on top of old blisters, blisters on top of & beneath calluses. Even my right heel has one; something to do with the way I crouch down when planting, I guess.

    The encouraging news is that we have stuff coming up in the vegetable garden, some peas & spring onions, a few rows of corn we took a chance on & potatoes. Whenever I get discouraged looking at what we have yet to plant, I look back towards the kitchen garden - if it's in view & that's a bit more encouraging. Only a wall of seedlings, mainly pepper plants I think, are left in the house & the women will be glad to get those out of there & into the ground.

    The eggs are hatching left, right & center & some hens are sitting on more. Making a winter-proof coop is something fairly high on our priority list, as is making sure the cattle Drew chooses to winter over have a snug place indoors as well. He hasn't heard of any bulls around here we can easily get cows to, so we may winter over more cattle than we'd originally planned. By next spring one of the two bull calves we're keeping should be up to the job of making sure we have calves the following spring. The piglets are growing & amusing the kids. One is too large to easily lift now for Annette & if she doesn't stop calling it 'Bacon' soon, the younger ones will kill her.

    I wish I were that age again, the age of the younger ones I mean. We work them half to death during the day & they still have enough energy for a bit of play after supper. The teens are also full of beans & the rest of us are finding that while this is pretty wearying work, it's doable & we no longer trip over our own feet coming in for supper. That's a relief. One day last week, I forget which, one of the kids asked me what was the sum of 5, 3 & 6 - something about eggs - & I had to think to come up with the answer! I'm not that bad now, but man; I'm still ready for bed by about nine every night. To be honest, I'm ready for bed sooner than that, but evening chores still have to be finished.

    MT continues to improve, albeit slowly. We brought her downstairs after breakfast for perhaps 20 minutes this morning & again at supper so she could sit with us. Mike took her stitches out this morning & she's dying to have her hair properly washed. That will wait a few more days though. He told us to encourage her to get up, to join the family a few times a day as she did today. He thinks it's important to her recovery that she participates in family activities as much as she can. He also warned us she might never regain much of her strength, as this incident was a severe shock to her system. We're simply grateful she's still with us. It could have all gone so badly.

    Our newcomers are also doing reasonably well. Junior - as Morgan calls him is the loudest, most demanding baby I've ever run across & I thought Sam was a handful! Leslie is still very weak & Anne tells me her milk hasn't come in yet. Mike said it might take time, as she was not in good shape before the delivery. So the baby is getting bottle fed in addition to nursing since about noon & that seems to shut him up for longer periods of time. He may have just been hungry. Leslie sure is appreciating the extra sleep though. Louis is taking some of the feedings, giving her more time to rest & rebuild her strength. Actually they could probably both sleep all night if they chose - everyone is fighting for a chance to hold, cuddle & feed the baby. There aren't too many volunteers when it comes to changing time, but everything else is more than covered! Louise & Cindy are doing a lot of it - good practice?

    Anne is worried about Leslie, as she seems to have a slight fever this morning. If it gets worse or she starts developing other symptoms, Mark will go into town for the doctor. Anne didn't give too many details, (I didn't want any), but says she's not happy with the discharge she has either. Well, Anne knows what she's doing, so I'll continue to have faith in her judgement. She's simply trying to make sure right now that Leslie gets as much rest as she can, eats as much as she can comfortably get in her tummy & Anne is also making her get up & walk around, often & a bit at a time. Apparently, it's good to get new moms up & moving as soon as possible.

    Morgan had Louis with him all day again. In the morning, Morgan had Louis help him move the cattle to one of the back fields, then showed him how we measure feed for the chickens & horses. He toured him through the house - again but the place does sort of resemble a rabbit warren with additions here & there, a step up, 2 steps down... it can be confusing. He explained his shower system to him & the laundry & showed him all the little practical things we've developed over time. I'm sure it was too much at once, but we can go over points with him as needed. They finished weeding the kitchen garden - at least for this go-round, then mid-afternoon, they joined Drew out in some the fields farther back from the house.

    Drew has a couple of teams planting some grains; forget which type back there & they're simply tossing out handfuls as evenly as possible. Now that boy has to me, already proved his worth. He asked if we could use a fertilizer spreader - the kind you use on a lawn. We all had a "stupid moment" where we looked at each other, then burst into howls of laughter. Of course it would work! Drew says we just have to mix seed with sand or something if we can't get the size of the apertures quickly enough. But I'm sure we can. Drew has an old one & Louis along with Morgan promptly went to find it & try it out. It worked! Mark & I will ride into town tomorrow & see if we can't pick up a couple at the hardware store. They come as SAR items, so we can tie the packages on behind us. I'm looking forward to the outing, although we won't take time to linger.

    I've asked Drew if I could have the kids for an hour or two after lunch tomorrow. They've been working flat out on almost the same schedule as the adults & I wouldn't mind giving them a bit of a break. A few hours hitting the books won't hurt them, as they'll be able to do that sitting on the front porch. A bit of math & reading & I might even walk them up to the woods & just do some 'nature studies'. Not that we don't get lots of that living on a farm, but we can sneak in a little learning!

    Farrah from next door came over just before lunch asking if Joe could go over & check the tractor - didn't want to start or something. They must be even more tired than we are. They hadn't refilled the fuel tank since the day before! Joe must have had a tough time keeping a straight face & he said Jack blushed something awful. I'll just bet he did! The kids were working away, grubbing through a nice big kitchen garden & not looking as though they minded the work. That's Farrah's job; keeping an eye on them while Chelsea does some of the real planting work. She was spotted planting potatoes - her & her mom are alternating planting & hoeing them over. Sounds like they're getting their stuff together.

    Well, I'd best think about getting ready for the night. Tomorrow's another in a string of long days & there's lots to do. I'll need sleep in case I get bounced around on the horse too much tomorrow. My body can't handle the muscle strain as well as it used to!
    More of my thoughts on flu/health matters and the latest news can be found at [url=]The Laboratory[/url].

  40. #200
    Join Date
    May 2001
    Kingston, Ontario, Canada

    evening, 23/05/03

    Blisters. My life has been reduced to blisters. Old ones, new ones, wet & dry blisters. Cracked blisters, bleeding blisters & blisters colonizing old blisters. Drew has us working at a blistering pace these past few days, pun fully intended. We've been seeding different grains in different fields, mainly using those push-along weed & feed type carts, but some stuff has had to be done by hand & hoed in still. Frankly, I've lost track of what it is we've planted & where. Drew is keeping track of all of that with Noreen's help. I just know we've done lots of planting with lots left to do.

    But Drew says we're making excellent progress & another few weeks should see the most of it done. Great... just in time for the first cut of hay! Do I sound happy about that? Well I'm not. That is going to be agonizing work of a different sort. Drew tells me the hay will be about 2 feet or so high when we have to cut it. We have to cut it a few inches off the ground, leave it lying for a few days, then gather it up & get it into the barns, up into the lofts. I feel like I'm going to be a model for those old farm style paintings that were all the rage last century. My back is going to end up feeling like a model for the 'before' shot for a poster of a chiropractor's clinic.

    Morgan, in his "spare" time has been scrounging around the outbuildings here & at a few nearby, still abandoned holdings, trying to find old scythes. He's found three & hopes to double that as three isn't nearly enough - I don't think so. Noreen says & I quote: "It should be, scything is bloody hard work & short shifts will be all you can handle", so maybe three will do. It's not as though there won't be plenty of work for the rest of us while some are cutting hay.

    There are weeds coming up everywhere & already the kids are swarming through the fields with hoes. Even Cindy & Louise have done some weeding when they have an hour or two with not much else going on. Not that this happens often but I think they're both feeling guilty for not doing more of the harder work. Anne's not crazy about them putting in long hours in the field but says some hoeing once in a while won't hurt them - as long as it's not in the middle of the afternoon. It's starting to get almost uncomfortably warm now by shortly after lunch.

    As well as blisters, most of us have 'farmers' sunburns - red noses, red necks & red arms. We've only taken time for very brief showers - not even very hot ones but even so, I swear the dirt is so deeply ingrained by now I'll still be scrubbing it off next Christmas. My jeans are almost muddy enough to stand by themselves when I take them off at night. Socks? They're disgusting at the end of the day & I learned quickly not to wear any but brown ones! I have enough of those.

    In spite of the endless work, I'm still able to appreciate the weather. I love May. It's a month of fresh greens & it's wonderful to smell anything at all. Noreen's gardens are coming up nicely & she even has some roses close to blooming. Another week should bring a riot of color as roses, lilacs, lily of the valley, peonies & other favorites burst into flower. We're seeing bees, some early moths & butterflies & yes, the first mosquitoes.

    We've seen only a little rain since we really got into the planting work. Luckily for us, most of that rain has fallen at night & hasn't been hard enough to bog us down as we start our day's work. Drew is very happy with the water levels in the stream running through the place. He took a quick hour to ride back to the pond & beaver pond with Mark & says the water is high but not impossibly so. He added it's high enough to see us through a long dry spell should be have one. Certainly trees, shrubs & wild plants are growing like weeds; just loving the moisture.

    Our crops are starting to grow. It's a marvel to look at fields that just a week ago were brown & muddy. The first hint of green seems illusive, but within a few days, there's no doubt about it - stuff is coming up robustly. Potato plants are sprouting, man EVERYTHING seems to be trying to grow. We haven't had a night below 54 degrees in almost 2 weeks & while he's happy about that, Drew is fretting that such high night-time temperatures now may foreshadow a long, hot summer. Farmers - never happy, ate they?

    MT is slowly getting better. She's able to spend a good part of the day sitting up now & Morgan rigged a sun shade for her on the front porch & we've cleared a bit of the east side of the lawn for a chair for her. She's comfortably warm there in the afternoon, is just under one of the kitchen windows so she can be heard if she calls out & can see us & what we're doing. I love watching the kids straighten up from their work & waving to her. Of course, she waves back! Her bruises have faded, her stitches are slowly healing & her mind, thank the Good Lord, is still clear. Much of her strength has failed though & I fear that may be permanent. A few short walks a day, generally in the house of just outside wear her right out & her appetite, never that good is quite poor now. She spends what time she can in prayer & reading her bible & we try as best we can to keep things quiet for her. The kids visit with her but no more than 1 or 2 at a time & they keep it short.

    Leslie is not doing very well, I'm afraid. Mike has been out daily as he fears she's infected now. He & Anne have her on antibiotics intravenously & we're praying she recovers quickly. She's been so very weak since the birth. Junior seems to have robbed her of her strength, what she has left after so much travel, so heavily pregnant. He's almost visibly growing & as demanding as anything I've ever seen in a baby. Thankfully he sleeps good long stretches at a time, something we all appreciate at night. Cindy & Louise have enjoyed the practice & I'm sure having dealt with him will make the transition from expectant moms to real moms easier for them. We've encouraged Joe & Jake to do some diaper changes & bottle feedings too. Boy was Joe nervous the first time he changed a wet diaper! I thought he was going to faint.

    Poor Louis - between worrying about Leslie, trying to do as much as he can for Junior, who they haven't named yet & getting used to all of us & new routines, he's exhausted. After several days I feel safe saying he's a decent kid. For someone who looks as though he's in over his head, he's coping well with some huge changes. He's eating like a horse & needs to do so. I was in the bathroom behind him yesterday evening & even after several days of good food, his ribs can be counted without trying too hard.

    In terms of contributing to the group effort, if anything; he's trying too hard for a kid who's so damned emaciated. Morgan is keeping an eye on him & trying to make sure he doesn't kill himself. He's do desperate to do well in our lights, to make sure he & his family can stay. We've told them they can stay. Leslie should be on her feet fairly soon & as soon as she gathers her strength & the baby decides to be reasonable, she'll be able to help out too. I have no doubt of that. Already, Leslie is trying to sit up; more than she should be Anne feels. Anne & Mike would prefer she lay quietly, as much as possible until her temperature is down & she is less swollen "down there". She's been on antibiotics almost 2 days now & Mike hopes we'll see a rapid improvement within 24 hours. Once her fever is gone for 2 days & she's been able to start eating properly, Mike will tell Anne to remove her IV & start her on the road to recovery. That should certainly ease some of Louis' fears.

    Our crops are not all that's doing well. Our flock of chickens is replacing itself nicely now that the eggs are hatching. We have almost 100 news chicks & have started letting several of the hens sit on their eggs. It's nice to be eating eggs again though & we're looking forward to some roast chicken, fried chicken, chicken stew & hot chicken sandwiches! Our meat stocks are down to almost nothing save for canned meats - not anyone's favorite but it's the only way to keep meat during the summer. Drew is ready to slaughter another older cow & thinks that within a month, we can think of beginning to 'harvest' some of the calves - they're getting to be a good size. It's hard to think of eating critters that are so cute, but we must. With the number of people we have here, meat is used up quickly & until we can begin to eat fresh vegetables, potatoes & other staples, we must use what we have whether it's "nice" or not. Sunday afternoon, several of us are heading out to fish & God willing, we'll come home with a mess of fish to fry up. Daniel from the Harrisons came over shortly after supper & asked if we wanted some pork. One of their piglets didn't make it - got rolled on against the pen wall & as it had gotten to be a good size, there's enough pork for both groups. We accepted gratefully & sent back the message that we'd bring over some beef early next week.

    It goes against the grain, but we may also take the shotguns over to some of the barren land nearby & shoot some of the Canada geese which seem to have settled in for the summer. I hate doing that, but we do need meat & anything we can do to give our cattle a chance to put on weight is good. We should be able to trap rabbits soon. Anne groaned at the thought, cleaning them is a ton of work but Leslie overheard us speaking about that & says she knows a trick or two about cleaning bunnies quickly & if we give her a couple of days, she'll be glad to help. Works for me!

    We're managing to give the children a little time off every day. What we do is release them from "duty" about 45 minutes before we wind down for the day. They pick up their tools, clean them up & put them away for the next day, then are free to play until about 10 minutes or so before supper. As long as they come in with reasonably clean hands & face, we close our eyes to the rest of the dirt. Morgan placed one of the larger barrels in the sun & during the morning, we fill it with water & let it heat up in the sun. Anne adds a bucket or 2 of hot water just after supper & we "dunk" the kids, 1 at a time to get rid of the worst of the dirt on them. Saturday nights & Wednesday, they get a good scrub.

    Even with the work, we're managing to teach the kids something most days. I've asked the adults to - when time drags, to try & do a bit of informal teaching. We drill them on basic arithmetic skills, using our work as the basis for the drills. If rows are ploughed three feet apart, how many feet of land do we have between ten rows - things like that. I have them read the backs of seed packets & anything like that that happens to be around us. Of course any questions they have about what we’re doing are answered as soon as we can & as best we can. They’re finding the early growth fascinating & I suppose it’s even more important to them knowing that this is what they’ll be eating in a few short months. It’s certainly spurring them to greater efforts. They’re not quite clear why we’re planting so much land in various grains. I’ve explained how we just use the seeds for food but they’ll have to see that I think. For most of them I think it’s a bit too vague.

    I’d forgotten but of course we can use the wheat straw & other stalks as animal bedding, insulation, all sorts of uses. It boggles my mind to think we have to stuff all that straw into various hay mows & lofts but as Drew said, much of that is in those outbuildings can be safely stowed outdoors. As long as it’s covered against the weather with tarps well fastened down it should be safe. I have an idea in my mind how many potatoes we’ll harvest & I just don’t see where we’re going to put them all. Drew admits that may be a problem. They have to be stored where it’s cool & dry & freezing may hurt them. We may ‘process’ quite a few into slices & fries & freeze them. These are problems we’ve yet to solve.

    We sent Annette & Jared to the Greenes last night, to check on AJ specifically & the rest of the family in general. They’re doing well, working hard & already have garden vegetables coming up. They seem to have their work well planned out & certainly aren’t work-shy. We sent them more milk & some eggs & hopefully we can give them several laying hens later this summer. The teenaged brother – his name escapes me right at this moment asked Annette to pass on a message to Drew – he’d like to come over & discuss a proposition with him. That sounds interesting & I’ll certainly be curious to know what he has in mind.

    We’ve seen people these last few days, passing by on their way to town. Three separate groups passed the farm heading west towards town & that was certainly startling, especially the first group. Most haven’t come too far, within 200 miles or so – cities & large towns & they’ve told us they’ve left their homes because conditions in the larger urban areas are simply untenable. Bodies are rotting where they fell, vermin are multiplying & little food or clean water is left. The last group we spoke to; an older woman, 2 adult sons & a few stragglers told us that in a few towns, they’re pretty sure they got the last of the food remaining.

    All three groups were heading for land on the other side of town. They’ve told us most of the land within 50 or so miles east of us is empty but they preferred getting just a bit farther from the cities. There ARE survivors in the cities but those left have either been damned lucky or out & out ruthless, willing to do whatever it takes TO anybody to stay alive. The rumors of what some of these people are doing are pretty grim, but can’t be confirmed. The three groups didn’t have much with them; some spare clothing, some food & personal items. They’re gambling they can find seed & farm tools farther on. I hope they’re right. Many have survived smallpox, others were never exposed or had the vaccines.

    They’re hungry for real news, we all are but that has been sadly lacking these last few weeks. Locally, we’re aware of what’s going on but nationally the picture is very blurry. International news has been impossible to obtain so far. Hopefully we’ll get something soon. I don’t know why, but I’d feel better if I had some idea of what was happening in the nation as a whole as well as overseas. I can’t forget that we bombed Baghdad. How are people downwind of that coping? I’ll have to pray they’ll do well & for now, I’m going to bed.
    More of my thoughts on flu/health matters and the latest news can be found at [url=]The Laboratory[/url].


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