Story Nann

Kathy in FL

TB Fanatic
Chapter 40

I’m tired. Bone tired. Dead dog tired. So is Mitch. We’ve gotten a lot accomplished but there is still a lot to do. You could say that is the life of a farmer, but that’s not all we are and not why we are doing things this way. Mitch said there will be new things on the list when these things are all scratched off. Not “might” be new things but will be new things. Whew. When my parents used to warn Dale and I that adulting was going to be a lot of hard work they weren’t kidding. It isn’t just the physical labor involved, it is the mental labor you have to put in before, during, and after most things.

How would you like to move an entire library to a new location that never even thought about being a library? Mitch helped me build shelves in the storm cellar and I’ve moved all of Grammy’s books … from the garden journals to her Bible commentaries to all the recipe books and hobby magazines she’s collected and those she’s made into scrapbooks over the years; they’re more idea books than real scrapbooks like you make with stuff from the hobby store, but look dead useful now that I need that kind of inspiration and help. I also want to bring down her recipe boxes but that’s going to have to wait until I can find a place for them because Uncle Hy’s library of books had to fit on those same shelves. I had to organize them as I moved them all, and I don’t know which set I’ve gotten more ideas from, Grammy’s or Uncle Hy’s. Not that I’ve had a lot of time to look. Did I mention that we’ve been busy and I’m tired?

We’ve been working both outside and inside since the “Night of the Bombers”. Sounds like the title of a movie. A bad movie. Like Night of the Triffids, the Night of the Comet, the Night of the Iguana, the Night of the Meek (an old Twilight Zone episode that Mom liked for some reason), and on and on. Just … weird … and tiring.

Inside I’ve been going over every room to try and make sure nothing breakable or valuable is in line of sight of a window or where it can be rattled off the top of something. Mostly that has meant taking everything off the walls and off flat surfaces and putting it in boxes and sliding it under the bed in that room. It’s made things look so bare that I can hardly stand it. I know Mom would say I am being foolish and sentimental but after the first room I decided to take pictures with my tablet so that I can put things back together the way they were when this war is over with. If you think it is hard for me, it is really hard for Mitch. This is his home even more than mine and having it turned upside down, and not for Spring or Fall cleaning, has been super stressful for him. He can’t even stand to go in Grammy or Uncle Hy’s bedrooms. I feel bad for him but the one time I brought it up he said that it had to be done so it had to be endured. Sounds like something he might have heard from Uncle Hy a few times. I just wish I could make his “enduring” easier.

I’ve also started going through the attic like Grammy had planned for us to do, just maybe not the way she planned for us to do. Mitch wants the windows up there “free of debris” in case we have to use that level as an “observation deck.” He also doesn’t want anything valuable up there in case we have to fight a house/roof fire. That gives me the heebies. But in an old wood house you have to be realistic.

We need more room down in the cellar and Mitch told me something I never knew. There actually is more to the cellar but Grammy’s second husband – the one that didn’t live very long and turned her sour on being anything but a widow from that point forward despite having the farm and all from her first marriage – sealed an area off that Uncle Hy’s father had dug and enclosed when he was thinking about changing the house layout. Boy was that a mouthful. Mom would red-pen it to pieces but sometimes you just have to tell stuff all in one breath or risk losing your train of thought.

Essentially it works something like this. In the old days you dug your cellars first and then built the house over them. That was due to most people only having picks and shovels to dig their cellars or because they were reusing an older homesite to build a new home on. It isn’t unusual to find that old homes have dug, filled, re-dug, or re-purposed cellars and basements under or around the site. The reason why this cellar is like that involves some family history more than engineering.

“Where is it?!” I asked Mitch when he told me about it. “Grammy never said a thing.”

He shrugged. “Sore subject for her. You knew her second husband was abusive? He didn’t hit but he wasn’t exactly the good man he wanted people to think. More than a little nuts too according to Dad.”

“Er … I kinda figured based on things she said after I found out about it. And Uncle Hy let slip one time that we are related to the Winters.”

Mitch made a face. “Yeah. One of the Winters married a daughter of that guy. Dad … I don’t know the entire story but apparently that man imagined himself to be a lay preacher with a side order of what the psychologists today call narcissistic personality problems. He was going to build a chapel to have a home church because he broke with their church right after they got married. However, that’s when he found out that Grammy didn’t own the farm outright back then, her brother-in-law owned half because that’s the way Grammy’s in-laws had deeded it out in their wills. Anyway, the brother-in-law nixed the idea and Lofton – that was his name – started doing things to undo all the improvements that Dad’s father had planned to do before he got sick. Dad ever told you how he died?”

“No. Grammy generally pretended those years didn’t exist. I mean she even scratched some stuff out of the family Bible so I couldn’t read it. I didn’t know it until I asked Mom why Grammy hadn’t remarried after Poppa Decker died when she would have been so young at the time. Mom is the one that explained about Mr. Lofton not being a nice man and taking his disappointments in life out on Uncle Hy when he was only a very little boy.”

“Yeah. Grammy told me it made Dad wild when he was a young but that he outgrew it, and I wasn’t to listen to all the stories that my bio-mom’s side of the family told. Anyway, that Old Fart Lofton had started to tractor over some young fruit trees that Dad’s father had planted.”


“Meanness. Claimed God had told him that the fruit from those trees would be used for wickedness when what they were supposed to be for was so Dad could get some schooling at some point.”

“You’re kidding me,” having a hard time grasping that kind of behavior.

“Nope. And apparently God didn’t like his Name being used like that either because out of a clear blue sky a bolt of lightning came down and struck him. He didn’t die from the bolt of lightning though. The lighting bolt threw him off the tractor seat and into a tree and he got impaled on a broken limb. It was witnessed by the Sheriff at the time as well as someone on the school board and a couple other men of character ‘beyond reproach.’”

“Aw, you’re just telling me a spook story cause I said how dark the cellar was this morning.”

Mitch held up his right hand and said, “If I’m lyin’, I’m dyin’. There’s a folder in Dad’s legal drawer that has the old newspaper articles about it. Lofton’s kids tried to take the farm, claiming their Dad had paid the bank and taken possession of it. Grammy and her brother-in-law had to go to court to prove the kids were lying. And that’s what started the feud that got carried over to the Winters family. I’ll dig out the folder with everything in it if I have time after supper.”

The weirdest things you find out about your own family. I swear. But Mitch and I are going to see if that cellar section is worth trying to open back up. It opens off the storm cellar and runs the opposite side of the house from the septic tank and field.

On the outside we’ve already proven that the barns and sheds can be closed from the inside, the doors barred, and then a way made to go out an upper window or vent. The animal barn is easier to get into using a tree and going through the cupola up there. It is scary high but the roof is sound and not too steep, so we don’t have to worry about falling as much as with the tractor barn. We’re going to go get some last season’s hay rounds from a field over by the Delray place and save this year’s hay to feed the animals with. Those hay rounds are going to be stacked around the outside of the barns and sheds to create a kind of protective barrier for what’s inside the those buildings. There is some fire hazard from that but at the same time, it is better than nothing because Mitch said the barns – and the animals inside – are even more vulnerable to shrapnel than the house is. Mitch already has two of the outside walls of the animal barn done like that, but it is going to require a lot more round hay bales to finish the job. And those round things have to be stacked just right or they can be a danger. Rodents and snakes might take up residence in those old bales as well, so we’ll need to keep an eye on things.

Mitch used the old rotary push lawn mower to knock down some of the higher grass that has been coming up and then used the scythe when the push mower wasn’t up to a particular patch or area. He would have preferred to use the bush hog or riding mower but that would have taken more fuel than he was comfortable using despite it being a necessary task. His reason is that he doesn’t want anyone being able to sneak up too close on the yard. We’ve got the fire buckets and hoses checked out and Mitch made sure that we could still hook them up to the old pumper wagon that we are keeping full from here on out. It is a very old-fashioned way of doing things but we’re too far from any place that could send a fire truck even if this wasn’t a Buffer Zone.

The other “water” thing we did was move some poly storage tanks from the rented land on the other side of the Delray place and put them on stands at the end of the house garden rows and then run drip hose (also found at that land) down the rows. It has meant getting water from the stream to fill them with, but the plants look a lot better, and we aren’t worried about losing so many plants or all the work of watering by hand. Uncle Hy used to use the pumper tank for that during a dry year, but we can’t run the motor that much and using the drip hose also means less water wasted through evaporation.

When I’m not cleaning and organizing, or helping Mitch with some building project or other, I’ve been working in the gardens doing other stuff and trying to keep up. Onions and hot peppers are all making, and I spend at least an hour at the end of the day braiding long strings of them. Strawberries are making and I’m having to pick them morning and afternoon so I don’t lose anymore to spoilage than might otherwise happen. One night I made strawberry short cake only with biscuits. I thought Mitch was going to lick the pattern off his saucer.

I’d give a lot for a frig to give me a little extra time. Mitch says he might have an idea between my Farm Project paper and Uncle Hy’s ideas and books. I hope he can do something because if I’m having trouble now, I can’t imagine what it is going to be like when the gardens really start producing. I’ve made just about all the canned strawberries I can handle and they are still coming in.

And speaking of producing hand over fist, the zucchini has started coming in. Holy Crow! What was Grammy and Uncle Hy thinking when they planted the gardens? I kinda get that they expected at least some in the family to head to the farm, but it is just crazy how much extra they planted. I’m not sure what to do with it all to be honest. I am digging through Grammy’s recipes files but I’m also trying to put as much fresh on the table as possible. And then Mitch threw another problem at me. We need to save seeds because who knows when, where, or how we’ll be able to get more seeds. *ARGH!* My aching brain.

Tomorrow Mitch is going to need help getting some of the hives moved around. He laughed when I told him I’m worried about putting the hives where we can’t see and check on them every day.

“They’re not puppies or kittens Nann.”

“Obviously,” I told him, more than a little embarrassed by my worry.

“And look at it like this, they need to be spread out some so there is plenty of things for them to pollinate and get nectar from.”

“I know that too.”

“Then what is it?”

I sighed feeling stupid. “I don’t know, okay? I just … worry about them. Why I should I don’t know. They have pin sized brains and don’t know me from Eve … or from a rock or anything else. Matter of fact I don’t do anything but irritate them. But … I … I …” I shrugged. “It’s different than when I helped Uncle Hy do it. He was responsible for them, not me. Now I am and … and they might be annoying little stingers but they are still something alive and … I just worry that I’m going to do something wrong and they wind up all dead. And that doesn’t even count that you want to harvest all this honey all those hives are supposed to make and if I mess up that’s not going to happen.”

“I ain’t sayin’ its stupid Nann but … they’re bees. This is what they are created to do. Keeping too many in one spot … some will starve and they could get a disease and spread it to all the hives. This is just how you manage bees … by letting them be bees.”

I know he’s right. And I know I’m being a little ridiculous. Mom would say a lot ridiculous and too sentimental. But like I told Mitch, it’s different now that I’m responsible for things.

At least I seem to be proving to Mitch that I’m not a kid that needs to be kept in the yard or on a leash all the time. I now go foraging on my own. Fine, it isn’t far from the house but at least it is farther than the apron strings he tried to strangle me with for a while. There are rules … of course … like I have to tell him where I am going and how long I’m going to be gone, I have to carry the Glock, and if I see anyone they shouldn’t see me first. That’s not all he says on the subject but those are the biggies.

Thank goodness because as much as I like working with Mitch I’ve been falling behind on the things I’m supposed to be responsible for, like the foraging and gardening and stuff. I’m happy to report that the yellow morels are in though there aren’t as many as there were last year; I think because it has been so dry. Finally dug that wild ginger that I wanted. I want to plant some nearer to the house but haven’t had time. I think I got the last of the fiddleheads, if I take any more there won’t be any next year. The wisteria, black locusts, elderberries, and lilac are in bloom and I made some flower jelly – something Grammy used to win awards for at the County Fair. One of the reasons Mitch wants to move the bees is so they can have at the blooming things going on right now. No specialty honeys this year, just need to make sure the bees have enough to eat since there doesn’t look like there will be any field crops.

I tell you if I was any more industrious that I could just spit. It’s almost time for the lightning bugs to start coming out so it is time for us to be moving inside. We saw big planes (Mitch says large transport planes) earlier in the day coming out of the East. Mitch wasn’t sure from where and it was an odd direction. We never saw planes coming from the East even when I was in town. Everything was always North to South. I wonder what it means. Mitch is in the cellar sending out a report on the planes. They were flying high and he says he thinks they were ours but he is reporting it either way. All I want to do is lay down and rest, sleep and escape for a little while. Mitch hasn’t had a migraine since the medics gave him those eye drops. On the other hand my head feels like it could roll off and roll away.


Canadian Loonie
A nice lunch for all those extra zucchinis..... heat a small can of tomatoes or raw, slice some zucchini, bean sprouts, chopped onions, celery, and add a can of tuna, and hot sauce - sprinkle with cheese for protein.

Takes 5 mins and done......could eat it every day for a week, then not have it again for a year. Rice is nice with it if you want it for supper with more volume. Don't want to turn this into a recipe collection, but it is the only thing I every make with zukes and I have one in the frig ready for lunch tomorrow. Never have baked with it.


Veteran Member
A nice lunch for all those extra zucchinis..... heat a small can of tomatoes or raw, slice some zucchini, bean sprouts, chopped onions, celery, and add a can of tuna, and hot sauce - sprinkle with cheese for protein.

Takes 5 mins and done......could eat it every day for a week, then not have it again for a year. Rice is nice with it if you want it for supper with more volume. Don't want to turn this into a recipe collection, but it is the only thing I every make with zukes and I have one in the frig ready for lunch tomorrow. Never have baked with it.
That ......emmmm? Not tinglin' my taste buds. LOL

Kathy in FL

TB Fanatic
Chapter 41

“Geez, this is … this is big Mitch. Did Uncle Hy know it was this big? And what’s … turn the lantern over that way please.”

“Kinda dark Nann. Which way is ‘that’ way,” Mitch said with a little laugh to his voice.

“Sorry. My bad. Look where my flashlight is pointing. What’s that? Is that … another door?”

# # # # #

We’re still figuring things out. Mitch said he doesn’t really care about the details if I can’t find them, he was more interested in the engineering and whether and how we could use the space. I just can’t seem to stop thinking about it though. Mitch doesn’t care so long as I’m not “wasting time on things that don’t matter anymore” and didn’t pester him about it. I get it. I do. But it was still like an itch I needed to scratch. I’m not sorry for what I’ve found out but at the same time it is a lesson in why it might not always be good to scratch that kind of itch.

I thought and thought and thought. Gah! It was driving me nuts. I decided the only thing left to do was go digging through Grammy’s cedar chest and her journals. Talk about some TMI that I could have done without. In the early years her journals were like diaries, then a couple years after she became a widow again they turned into what I knew them to be today … records of gardening, flowers, ideas, recipes, records of births and deaths in the family without much editorializing, mentions of things in other families up on the Ridge, and that sort of thing. Those early journals? Wowee. I won’t re-record all of it. Nope, nope, nope. I guess women back then knew how to say a lot while not actually saying some of the words but still … it wasn’t always hard to figuring out what she was referring to.

Grammy really loved her first husband and when he got sick and died so suddenly she was “bereft.” That was the word she used most often. I think it means that in her grief, she felt her husband was stolen from her and that being without him just made life not worth living. She admits that the only reason she would get up and get going in the mornings was because she had a son that depended on her and if she thought she could have trusted any of the rest of the family she might have sent him to live with them and just given up. But with Uncle Hy being the only bit of Poppa Decker she had left she was hanging on for him.

It seems like she married Mr. Lofton more for Uncle Hy’s sake than because she loved the man; one of those marriages of convenience things they talk about in romance books where the heroine and hero eventually fall in love and live happily ever after but that I’ve never heard about happening in real life. Grammy and Mr. Lofton had both lost spouses and I guess she thought in their grief they could work something out together. Grammy needed help with the farm and Mr. Lofton needed a place to live because he was basically an itinerant preacher of sorts. From what I read, some people tried to steer her clear of him – including his own mother – but Grammy was caught between her own stubbornness, her grief, and his “odd charisma” that she didn’t see through until it was too late. Some of the things that she inferred about her 2nd marriage were really weird, and definitely TMI. I didn’t even tell Mitch that stuff. If he wants to know he can read it on his own. Grammy scratched through a bunch of it so I’m pretty sure she didn’t want people to know … but a lot of the scratching faded over time and you could read the original writing plain as day.

What I did learn was that Uncle Hy came by his suspicious nature and distrust of government honestly. Put another way, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. Poppa Decker, Uncle Hy’s father, came from an age of world wars and threats to end the world through war and from a family who, though religious, also had its share of black sheep including plenty of moonshiners. He and his brother also had a bit of a competition thing to their relationship that Grammy didn’t care for too much. When her brother-in-law decided to get out of farming – he preferred fixing machinery for farmers – he moved off the farm and bought a house that turned out to have an old-fashioned Cold War bomb shelter hidden in the basement. It gave the brothers ideas to go with their concerns of that era.

Poppa Decker and his brother agreed that if anything bad like that should happen, that the family would come back to the farm but in came the “competition” thing and Poppa Decker wanted his “bomb shelter” to be bigger and better than his brother’s bomb shelter. The two brothers also started making lists of all sorts of changes they wanted to make to the farm (what these changes were have been lost over time and to Mr. Lofton’s throwing stuff away that related to Poppa Decker, and probably don’t matter anyway). The only thing I can tell for sure that got done was the enlarging of the cellar and moving the septic tank and field to the other side of the house.

To go from the original cellar to Poppa Decker’s cellar you have to go down a flight of stairs. Not a big set but a little longer than from the house to the original cellar. Mitch says that makes this “new” cellar a sub-cellar so that’s what I’ll call it from here on out. The sub-cellar was also connected to the animal barn and tractor barn through a tunnel that breaks off at different places depending on which outbuilding you are trying to get to.

It works like this. The house sits on a bit of high and dry ground that isn’t impacted by the creeks and stream that are what my geography teacher would call tributaries to the big river in town. The barns and sheds sit on the same plateau but further away. The front of the house … the formal front … looks out onto fields which are at increasingly lower and hillier elevations. The Decker fields aren’t too bad because the Deckers were one of the earliest families up here on the ridge and got the best ground, but some other people’s fields that can be seen are really hilly, like the Delray land that they rented out to other people. And some land that used to be fields are now planted over with trees as a different kind of investment. Every twenty years or so they’ll come in and clear cut the trees off that land to sell for lumber and then replant. It gives part of the ridge … the part closest to town … a really patchy appearance.

Anyway, the Decker property is cut off from everything else because of geography and wind break tree lines that all but hide the house in plain sight and divide certain fields. There’s also the stands of trees like the pecans and the walnuts that have specific purposes but look like a forest. Inside the trees though the homesite is pretty open. Uncle Hy was a bear about not letting trees get planted or grow up too close to the house because he worried about the septic field and the house’s foundation.

The original cellar sits immediately under the house. The septic field is off on one side of the house where tractors and cars don’t really have access because it is a tight area (for a full-sized tractor) that isn’t good gardening ground and eventually goes off into a really rock-filled slope. On the other side is where the sub-cellar is located – between the house and the barns – but it is a lot deeper in the ground. Grammy used to have a rose garden there and some herbs but as she got older, she let it go and there are only some wild roses left that she used to pick rose hips from. There’s still chicken wire around the raised beds because the dumb clucks used to get up in there and try and nest when they got broody. There’s also a row of domesticated blueberries and a raspberry hedge but it took a lot of time last summer … and a lot of blood from the raspberry hedge thorns … to get it where they are supposed to produce better this season.

Down in the sub-cellar the other door opened onto a tunnel that ran up like a ramp rather than using stairs. Mitch and I still can’t figure out if the tunnel was just a convenience that would let people move from the sub-cellar to the barns or to move the animals from the barns to the sub-cellar. The way things are designed it could be either/or. The sub-cellar is just a big open space with no interior walls though there are pillars ever so often like an old warehouse floor. Mitch says that is what helps to support the ceiling which is around ten feet deeper than the original cellar. The walls and pillars are also concrete block that has concrete sprayed over it (again, this is Mitch explaining). The floor of the sub-cellar has concrete “floated” over it (again, this is Mitch explaining). It is really cold in the sub-cellar. I’m not sure if that is because it has been closed off so long or because of how deep it is or if the concrete on concrete makes it like a cave and the temperature “remains constant” because of it. Mitch says for now it doesn’t matter, so long as we don’t free our tail feathers off, or things don’t get damp down there.

As far as Mitch can tell, and he’s been anxious about it enough that he went over inch of the sub-cellar, it is completely dry. So is the tunnel(s) until you get close to the openings into the outbuildings. The tunnel into the animal barn comes up in the tack room which is intentional I guess. The tunnel into the tractor barns is blocked from where Uncle Hy moved the supporting wall of his tool room and then laid a concrete floor in there. Mitch was able to dig out part of the “door” but it can be a squeeze.

Now that I’ve described things, let me tell you what Mitch is thinking. He wants better air circulation in there. He’s trying to figure a way to use the blocked tunnel door in the tractor barn as a way to make sure the air stays good down there. He thinks that maybe working down in that cellar with no good air circulation might have made Poppa Decker’s lungs weak and how he caught sick. All that they called it back then was “disease of the respiratory system”. I think they meant cancer but Mitch just shrugs and says maybe.

After Mitch is confident he has that figured out he is going to put the batteries and solar panels that we took that day we almost got blown up in (and on) the wellhouse that is near the house and run the wires down to the sub-cellar so we can see what we are doing with more than just head lamps.

Poppa Decker obviously meant for the sub-cellar to be used for more than just storage space. There is a picture rail run around the entire sub-cellar like in really old houses so you can hang pictures and decorations on without putting holes in the wall. There is a rail like that in Grammy’s parlor which was the original dining room for the farmhouse before it got added onto. And the concrete walls are really weird around the bottom four feet of the sub-cellar as well. It looks like chair rail and wainscotting only it is concrete. Mitch thinks that Poppa Decker must have been a little particular and crazy in his own way which may be why Grammy fell for Mr. Lofton … only Mr. Lofton turned out to be the wrong kind of crazy.

“That doesn’t worry you?” I asked Mitch.

“Why? It just confirms that this family is full of nuts and knotholes. Heck, look at my bio-mom and bio-grandmother. Heck, look at me. I have no clue who my sperm donor is. The man I call Dad was my great grandfather and Grammy was my great great grandmother. Maybe that song is right and I am my own grandfather.”

“Don’t Mitch. I never did find all that funny. Dale told me one time that Mom had said she wanted to adopt you rather than what could have happened.”

Mitch looked at me like he wasn’t sure he’d heard me. “Aunt … Dina?”

“I know. People always think they know Mom but she can surprise you. She and Dad wanted more kids, just wasn’t in the cards for them. It took them a while to have Dale and they were kinda surprised when they got me. Then …” I shrugged. “I don’t think Mom is sorry that things turned out like they did. She got what she got and didn’t throw a fit. It’s just that the way she was raised and the things that the family – her side – had done that kinda torqued her into only being able show so much. But think on this, she and Dad have lasted a long time when no one expected them to. And they even have a successful business together. So, there’s gotta be more to my parents than what people see. I’ve gotten glimpses of that ‘more’ every once in a while and Dale has told me stuff that he remembers from when he was real little. I just let ‘em be who they are and don’t complain they aren’t who I always wish they were.”

“It’s not that I don’t think Uncle John and Aunt Dina are good people. Don’t think that if you are. I … I’m just having a hard time … just even seeing her thinking that much less saying it.”

I shrugged. “She knew your … bio-grandmother or whatever you call her. Mom just always called her Marian. Just think of it as a weird coincidence and don’t worry about it.” What I didn’t tell Mitch is that Grammy and Uncle Hy knew who Mitch’s bio-dad was. Twisted bit of TMI and I’ll leave it lay rather than tell it. The things I read in Grammy’s journal that I’m wishing I would have left in the past where it belongs. I’m determined from here on out to focus on the now and future. All that other stuff? A headache and a heartache I shouldn’t have gone looking for.


Veteran Member
Another thing I like is pineapple/zucchini jam. Mmmm, laripin good! as my Mom would have said.

Thanks Kathy for the new chapter. I'm surely loving the story.
I make zucchini relish. YUM!! It is a sweet but tangy relish that uses zucchini, carrots and onions. We love it!! A batch makes 3 quarts and sometimes an extra pint. Delicious with anything grilled and I always put a spoonful or so in my chili, potato salad, and tuna or chicken salad for sandwiches. My BIL says it makes the BEST tartar sauce, too! One batch uses 10 cups grated zucchini, so you can go through a LOT of zucchini if you make a bunch of batches. I used to make 10-12 batches a year when I gave a whole bunch for gifts. Now I just make 4-5 batches a year for us and my sister and BIL. I can eat it by the spoonfuls right out of the jar! YUM!

I'm loving the story, too, Kathy!!


Veteran Member
I make zucchini relish. YUM!! It is a sweet but tangy relish that uses zucchini, carrots and onions. We love it!! A batch makes 3 quarts and sometimes an extra pint. Delicious with anything grilled and I always put a spoonful or so in my chili, potato salad, and tuna or chicken salad for sandwiches. My BIL says it makes the BEST tartar sauce, too! One batch uses 10 cups grated zucchini, so you can go through a LOT of zucchini if you make a bunch of batches. I used to make 10-12 batches a year when I gave a whole bunch for gifts. Now I just make 4-5 batches a year for us and my sister and BIL. I can eat it by the spoonfuls right out of the jar! YUM!

I'm loving the story, too, Kathy!!
Recipe for both please and thank you!


Veteran Member
Recipe for both please and thank you!
I got the recipe about 40 years ago and was told never to give it out. I've only given the recipe to one person - my sister. She tried to make it once and said it didn't come out anywhere near as good as mine. So she didn't want to make it anymore. But every year since then, she makes sure that she gets her jars from me! LOL! I misplaced the recipe one year and she literally started crying!

Like the old saying goes - If I give you the recipe, I'd have to kill you. ROTFLMAO!!

I'll PM you, Siskiyoumom, after I dig it out....


Veteran Member
Waaait a minute Sammy. You can't just give that recipe to only one of us. I still have one nice big zucchini on my kitchen counter just waiting for a recipe like that. So hopefully you will share with me, too. Thank you.


Retired, practising Curmudgeon
Waaait a minute Sammy. You can't just give that recipe to only one of us. I still have one nice big zucchini on my kitchen counter just waiting for a recipe like that. So hopefully you will share with me, too. Thank you.
Yeah and I can find eight or so when I go shopping tomorrow! We just got a new upright freezer & its crying to be filled and my wife was lamenting yesterday she hasn't broken out her canning rig this year yet!


Veteran Member
LOL! I'll look for the recipe tomorrow and post it. But y'all better not pass it on!! LOL! Or my friend will kill ME!!

No, don't have to dig a grave.... LOL!

Kathy in FL

TB Fanatic
Chapter 42

“’Scuse me,” Mitch said a little embarrassed.

I snickered. “You’re excused. You’re the one that wanted collards with the trout.” It had been a good day of fishing, foraging, fun, and chores. Things had gone right and we’d gotten a lot accomplished.

“So I did Miss Smarty Pants,” he said right before chasing me out of the kitchen and into the yard.

But that’s where we stopped. I looked at him and sighed and wanted to throw something before I started to tromp back inside trying not to look and act like a three-year-old throwing a snit fit.

Mitch said, “I’ll be in as soon as I lock up the animals.”

Trying to show my team spirit I told him, “I’ll do a quick clean-up of the kitchen and make sure the water containers are full.”

“Nann …”

“Don’t worry about it Mitch. This is just getting old. For both of us. They may be ours, but it is still getting old.”

“Yeah, it is.”

# # # # #

We’re in a Buffer Zone. I get that. I do. It means that things are just going to happen. But they’ve been happening a lot this month. Planes and helicopters flying this way and that, not all the time just at inconvenient times that can lead to unnecessary near freak-outs, and mostly just repositioning according to what Mitch can find out. People in camouflage suddenly appearing all over the place, although not all the time, but at least so far not “requisitioning” anything from us. The quiet of the ridge disturbed by the sound of large track vehicles, but at least no tanks yet, just people movers. Camps set up, but at least so far temporary and way on the other side of the Delray land. We did have a “hazmat unit” investigate the Winters property and they asked why we used liquid nails to seal the doors and windows shut because they had to break in, then had to repair it to keep the smell of biologicals in.

Mitch was over answering questions about “sightings” and I got caught flat footed when they cornered me and asked me about the Winters place. Good thing that Mitch and I had planned for it.

“Well, kinda because we didn’t want anyone accidentally going in there. Same reason we spray painted skull and crossbones on every door … which you obviously ignored. Plus we didn’t want animals breaking in. We’ve already had to deal with a bobcat and we saw sign that a bear was getting into things as well. Put two and two together and …”


I sighed and turned to Mitch, “I’m not traumatizing them by telling them spook stories. I’m telling them the truth with no dressing.” He gave me a look and I rolled my eyes and said, “Fine. You tell them if you think I might turn into a disruption or whatever you call it.”

That was the act that Mitch and I had worked out. I tried not to find it insulting – that I would be so stupid and juvenile-snotty – but at the same time I didn’t want any of them finding me too helpful either. Less I had to do with the active military the better. Most of them still couldn’t decide if I was a male that identified female or female that identified male or some other version of something. I didn’t want them asking and by rights they shouldn’t have even thought of asking or even noticed but those rules didn’t always apply I suppose when they were trying to figure out if I was a weak link or could be unduly influenced by the enemy. Mitch got irritated to the point of a headache on occasion because he got stuck between being angry that they noticed me and being angry that he felt we couldn’t move forward because it would make them notice me and being angry that I might think the way he had to act like he was treating me the way he really wanted to treat me … or brother, no wonder he gets a headache from this stuff. I can’t even keep it straight half the time.

One time I told him, “Don’t worry about it. It is what it is.”

He growled, “This is harder than …”

“Being around me is harder than what?” I asked him, thinking we were about to have another near argument and it had been a long day and I was ready to have one and just get it all over with.

“Well, obviously not what you’re thinking,” he said shortly after giving me a strange look.

“And what is that supposed to mean?”

“It means Nann that I promised to move slow and thought I could do it but I’m finding I don’t want to more and more and having all these people around reminding me why I shouldn’t is damn hard and treating you like you are some crazy kid I am trying to keep in line don’t thrill me none because I know it don’t thrill you.”

“Oh,” I said losing interest in arguing real fast. “Sorry.”


“Sorry for nearly flying off the handle.”

He heard me sigh. “That Dundee chick is a hot mess.”

Letting him change the subject I said, “You have no idea. I mean I am grateful for what she sent but at the same time I don’t need or want people in my business. I would have figured things out. I hope she doesn’t do that again or at least not too many people know what is in the box. Her letter said, and I quote, she understands why I’m hiding my gender, end quote, but that some things simply can’t be ignored.”

“Er … did you need that stuff?” he asked with the tips of his ears getting red.

“Yes and no. There were some supplies we got from the salvagers but it is packed away. This way I don’t have to use that stuff when my stuff runs out. I didn’t expect it to last this long to be honest.”

He squinched up his face and said, “I know I’m gonna regret asking …”

Rolling my eyes for all the reasons that womankind has rolled their eyes at mankind since the world started turning I told him, “Because hard work and losing a little weight has made it so my cycle has changed.”

He gave me a side look and I shook my head. I asked, “Do you really want me to explain it to you?”

“Er … no? But …” He sighed like he was really being put upon.

That finally made me laugh. “Geez Mitch. It’s just girl stuff. It’s nothing you need to worry about.”

“Uh … you sure?”

“Yeah. I’m sure.” But I later almost caught him (as in I did catch him but he didn’t realize I caught him) looking stuff up in one of the biology books from Uncle Hy’s library.

I’ll never be thin, my bone structure alone would guarantee it, but I gotta admit it isn’t hurting my feelings any to look in the mirror and see a real live woman staring back. All the annoying baby fat has … er … shifted or gotten used up between working and … well, just working hard. I never was one for sitting around – Mom would have fixed that real quick – but I work hard these days and there just isn’t any extra on the dinner table to keep me fluffy. I do most of the cooking and without refrigeration I’m careful about potential leftovers. Mitch doesn’t seem like he’s changed much and he never complains he is still hungry after we eat. On occasion he mentions he wants something sweet but so far he’s happy to take care of the cravings with strawberries or peaches which is what is coming in right now, or with something Grammy and I canned last summer like more canned fruit or maybe a shrub drink.

Wanna know what is annoying? Finally having something approaching a “figure” and not being able to do anything with it. It is also annoying to be stuck wearing these dang ol’ overalls all the time because my other clothes don’t really fit anymore, even my uniform pants. And what isn’t loose is getting too tight … like my sports bras and some of my t-shirts. I’m going to be stuck trying to make over some of Grammy’s things and I’m a little freaked out about it. I know how to sew – it’s one of the few things that Mom insisted on since I was a “big girl” and didn’t always fit in the clothes I needed for whatever activity I was participating in that she and Dad demanded be “modest”. I often had to adjust the waist of the pants I would get, because if they fit one place the didn’t fit another and vice versa. Oh well, you get what you get and don’t throw a fit but I really have “clothes fatigue” when it comes to these overalls. Only thing that changes the outfit up is which flannel shirt will I wear today, and even that is getting old because it is getting too hot to wear flannel shirts. Oh raspberries.

And if I thought we were working hard last month I’m telling you I didn’t know what work was. Though there is one toy that Mitch bult that I could just kiss him in public for the world to see. I’d kiss him so good it wouldn’t just be the tops of his ears going red, I’d blow the top of his head clean off. There. How do you like them apples Grammy?

Mitch found a project Uncle Hy had started but never gotten around to finishing. It is a big oven dryer. Not a dryer for clothes, not a cooker, but a food dryer … or a dehydrator is what Uncle Hy called it. Actually what he called it was a Dryhouse. In the old days dryhouses were commercial buildings that had kilns beneath the floor and then you put the fruits or vegetables on these slats that sat above the ovens … first you sulfured them and then you changed the kind of fire (or what you were burning) and after a couple of turnings the fruit dried and was sent off to market.

Dryhouses were popular from about 1870 into the 1920s but some hung around all the way into the 1950s. Or at least the book that Mitch found said so. It is still an old-fashioned, antique method of preserving food so it could be sent to market in faraway places. Uncle Hy was forward thinking in terms of trying to figure out a way to get the fruit from the orchards all the way to market with as little spoilage as possible. Well, right now we don’t have a “market” but we don’t want all the fruit to go to waste. Mitch said the design looked a lot like what they used to make bricks in. To me it looked like a souped up, old-fashioned pizza or bread oven. Six of one, half a dozen of another. Basically it was a large masonry firebox on the bottom, then above this was where you dry whatever it is you want to dry. To fill that sucker up takes about thirty bushels of fruit, but Uncle Hy’s plan and some jury-rigging by Mitch, will allow us to cut that down to fifteen bushels if need be. It sounds like a lot, and it is, but only if you haven’t been out to the orchards to count the trees.

A mature peach tree produces three to six bushels and Uncle Hy rarely got less than four from each of his trees. And production is only going to go up from here because he has been adding an outside row to each kind of fruit tree with new trees that he starts as bareroot seedlings. A bushel of peaches weighs around fifty pounds so each of the standard-size, mature peach trees will produce anywhere between 150 and 300 pounds. Nectarines probably yield about a bushel less per tree. Pear trees are the same with Asian varieties leaning to being a little more productive and European (dessert) pears bearing a little less. The orchards are about half and half of Asian – what Grammy called canning pears – and the fancy dessert pears.

Plum trees also depend on variety but you can pretty much count on three or four bushels from mature trees. Sweet cherries yield about three bushels for standard varieties and Sour Cherries about a bushel less. Then we come to the apples. Oh my Lord. Mature standard trees yield ten to twenty bushels per tree. Thank goodness not every variety comes in at once or I would be little more than death on a cracker by the end of production.

And if it isn’t fruit from trees, it is fruit from bushes and vines. If we are lucky we’ll be harvesting domestic and wild fruits all the way to the end of October with maybe, just maybe, even getting a few things in the first week of November. If fruit and wild greens were all we needed to eat to keep from starving and stay healthy we’d be sitting pretty. The fruit here in May has been peaches, strawberries, red mulberries, and white mulberries. I’ve canned what I could when people weren’t around but I’m glad for the dryhouse more and more.

The other thing that I’ve been a canning fool about is the beans that are coming in. Lima beans, all sorts of bush beans, pole beans, and peas. I haven’t really wanted to dry the beans though I am leaving some on the bush and vine to dry for winter use and for seed following Grammy’s directions as close as I can. And with the new potatoes coming in I’ve taken to adding some to about half the cans of pole beans rather than worry about them going bad. Next month we’ll be able to harvest full-sized potatoes. Those I’ll have to dry as I can and then store the rest fresh in the potato closet so we can save some for next planting. Thank goodness Mitch is here or I’m pretty sure I’d lose way more and then we wouldn’t have much to plant next year.

Sgt. Cahill keeps as many of the men (and women) away from the farm as possible without creating suspicion. Mostly he blames me, as I am technically still a minor and he doesn’t want a mess on his hands. We let them think we are just dumb hicks and try and keep things picked out of the garden so that the men (and women) don’t get too nosey about how we eat. Though I gotta admit that after feeding them a mess of ramps I think I worked some of that out so they aren’t interested in much. I’ve explained about kudzu being edible too. And for some reason the smell of cooking cabbage ran them off as well. Obviously they aren’t starving yet or they wouldn’t be so ever loving picky.

I think Mitch might have some kind of side agreement with the sergeant though. Mitch knows I know but there’s a wall there that he doesn’t want me to ask him what is going on. Fine. Whatever. Dale and Dad were doing the same thing there for a while so I’m thinking that he’s exchanging honey for fuel or maybe a little extra “intel.” Whatever. He’ll tell me or he won’t. Apparently he doesn’t want me to know right now. No worse than what Dale would do when he was thinking about a new girl or something like that. But two can play at that game. I taught the medic to make cough syrup with tobasco sauce. And traded it for information.
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Veteran Member
Thank you Kathy. Is the recipe for cough syrup online somewhere?
Here's one.

"Tabasco sauce can also help when you've got a cough. One reason over-the-counter muscle pain creams often contain capsaicin is that the chemical slows the transmission of pain signals and reduces inflammation 2. You can use the same effect to reduce throat inflammation and calm the nerves responsible for the cough reflex. To make a homemade cough syrup, combine a quarter tsp. of Tabasco sauce with 3 tbsp. of warm water, 1 tbsp. of honey, and 1 tsp. of lemon juice. Stir well and take a teaspoon at a time as needed."