Friday, December 21, 2012

Day 61- Let There be Honey

Husband and I set off for the Hutterite Village right after breakfast.  The boys do chores, then work on building toys.

Things are not as quiet this trip as they have been in the past.  People come out of their houses and ask us to stop.  It seems we've traded half of our goods before we even get to Littletown.  Everyone wants to trade and chat.  Some things I agree to trade just because the people are so obviously bored.  One man traded a knife for a bow, and then traded the bow back for a pot that I got from his neighbour.

It's a fun ride, and we're obviously not the first people this has happened with.  People in Littletown come running out of their houses with pots, dishes, blankets, baskets, knicknacks and tools.  Everyone wants to trade something, and no one seems to care terribly much what they trade or what they get in return.  They trade with us, they trade with each, they trade back again.  Everyone is laughing and talking.  It feels like a party.  They tell us there were a couple of people with carts that would come every other week before the snow got so deep.  We trade in our box of books at their library, taking a large assortment of books in return.

We finally get to the Hutterite Village.  The store has only root vegetables available- potatoes, carrots, parsnips, turnips, beets, onions, garlic, and sugar beets.  The men come out to look at our sleigh full of goodies.  They're impressed with Diego's bows, and trade us one bow for enough supplies to build at least a dozen more, and two more for a selection of veggies.  They trade the fox skins for more veggies, and my candles for three large jars of honey.  Most of the other things we had left home with are already gone, and I honestly don't know what to offer them, or what else to take.

We ask the men if there's anything else they're interested in.  They continue to eyeball the sleigh.  Finally one asks what we want.  I ask for seeds, more honey, size ten shoes, sheets and blankets, hankies.  They pick out a few odds and ends, some things I don't even recognize.  They give us a bag of assorted seeds, another jar of honey, and three sheets.  They tell me to come back in a month with two bows and they'll have a pair of size 10 shoes.

We take a detour on the way home.  Most cars on the highway had their tanks punctured, but we find a car on one of the back roads that's still got enough fuel to fill our jerry cans.  We pick up the pace from there, waving at people who come out wanting to chat and trade again.  If we don't hurry home we won't make it before dark.

Diego and Nira are happy with a third of the veggies, a jar of honey, a few odds and ends, and the supplies to build more bows.  They didn't expect to get that much.  I give them all of the toys that were traded, and a stack of books.  I tell Diego that I need two bows to trade for shoes in a month.  He doesn't know what he wants to trade them for, but he'll think about it.

Brother and Sil are at Mom and Dad's when we get there.  I keep a few veggies for us, but give them the rest to split between them.  We're still doing ok, but I keep the sugar beets to plant for seed in the spring.  Dad takes a couple of hand tools.  Sil takes a sheet.  I give them a jar of honey, and mom pours some in another container.  They all pick out a few books.

Lisa and Sally are waiting at our house.  Lisa cooked again, and helped the Bigs build toys.  The Littles kept Sally busy and wouldn't let her in the garage.  All of the dishes, pots and cutlery that are left in the sleigh can go to the cabin for them.  I give Lisa a few veggies, some clothes that will fit her and Sally, and I pour a bit of honey in a smaller jar for them.  There's an odd assortment of baskets, bins, craft supplies, and knicknacks left.  I keep a few baskets, then Husband takes the rest to the cabin.

It's dark out when the horses are finally put away for the night, and I'm exhausted, so I head off to bed.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Day 60

Two months without power.  Without cars.  Without t.v.  Without 'government'.  Without even a radio.  If it wasn't for the meal planner I made a while ago, I probably wouldn't even know what day it is.  One day blends into the next.  Monday is just the same as Friday.  We do what needs to be done- fires and water and cooking.  Then we look for ways to keep ourselves occupied.  Some project to do that might use up a day or two.

Everyone is feeling better now, it seems.  Maybe a little dragged out, and I guess a few sniffles yet, but the headaches, sore throats, and chest congestions all seem to have subsided.  I am so sick of washing hankies.  That could possibly be the downfall of civilization- mama goes postal for lack of kleenex.  Ok, ok, it's not that bad.  Still, there are certainly more pleasant jobs.  I'll be on the lookout for more sheets at the flea market.  I started storing the hankies in old coffee cans, but they may still need a new home.  We use coffee cans for feed scoops, clothespin buckets, and other assorted odds and ends.  It's strange that I now worry about where we're going to get more of something that most people consider to be garbage.

Husband and the Bigs built miniature rocket heaters for everyone's outhouses.  Ours isn't installed yet, because if someone comes over and sees it, it'll ruin the surprise for Christmas, so we're still freezing our butts off, but thankfully only for a few more days.

The weather's been holding steady at about -10°C overnight, and just below freezing through the day.  We've had some light flurries but no real big snow storms.  The snow on the ground is holding at just about a foot deep- perfect for the sleigh.  Husband and the Bigs have had it out a couple of times, just practicing, down our road.  Husband thinks we're ready to try the trip to the Hutterite village.

Today we check in with Mom and Dad, Brother and Sil, and Diego and Nira, and let them all know our plans.  The sleigh is only big enough for two people, and Husband figures it should be safe enough for me to go.  Everyone else will have to stay home.  If they have things they want to trade though, we'll take them along and do our best.  The Bigs wanted to ride along on the trip, but Husband says they'll have to stay at the house with the Littles.

Everyone has empty jerry cans and hopes for fuel.  We can only take 1 jerry can for each of them.  Sil has knitted mittens and slippers, and Brother has the fox skins.  He's gotten a few more since the last time we were there.  They have a box of books to trade in as well.

Mom has some meat to part with.  Dad got a moose.  Dad's made some knives for trading.  They're crude, but sharp.  They have some books.

Diego has 12 bows, but only one arrow for each.  If we can get him some more pipe, thinner pipe, and dowel he can keep making more.  Nira has some clothes that are too small for their youngest, and extra mittens that she sewed.  Nira's hoping for more children's books, and maybe some toys for Christmas.

I have candles to trade, books, a couple of roasts, a dozen eggs, and Husband has been cleaning and fixing things in the garage.  He adds a box of assorted odds and ends to the sleigh.  It's hard to know what to trade, when we don't know how long we'll be in this predicament, or when we'll be able to get more supplies.  What seems unnecessary now might become valuable in the future.

Everyone's priorities seem to have shifted.  Veggies are still high on the want list, but mostly everyone wants something to combat the boredom.  I have a bunch of board games for the kids, and several decks of cards.  We can lend them out amongst our group, but I think I could make copies to trade as well.  They won't be ready for this trip, but maybe next time.  I look through the cupboard and decide to take along an extra chessboard and a nature trivia game that the kids have gotten bored with.  They might be worth something.

After loading the sleigh with everything but the food, we decide to go and see the people we got our chickens from.  The roads are quiet on the way there.  We find a car with enough fuel to fill one jerry can.

They're happy to visit with us- it's been some time since they've seen anyone.  They still have a few more chickens than they'll be able to feed through the winter.  We show them what we have available to trade, and they take some metal thing from Husband's box, a pair of mittens, and the chess board for eight hens and a five gallon pail of goat's milk.

We talk for awhile about different wants and needs.  They figure they've still got enough of everything they need, except vegetables- mostly it's just boring out there all alone.  They miss their car.  They thought about trying to trade a cow for a horse, but neither one of them knows how to ride.  They joke that they'd be happy for a bicycle at this point.  We have a number of bicycles at our house.  I buy them at yard sales, because it seems one of the boys is always needing a new tire, or a different seat, or a gear.  The Bigs rip pieces off of one and put them on another all the time.  I wonder if they could put a few of them together to trade in the spring.

We have a nice, but short visit.  The days are so short now that we can't really risk being out much past two.  On the way home we stop at Diego and Nira's and drop off four hens.  We didn't give them any from the first batch, and I'm really bad about delivering eggs.  Neighbour's had a hen house on the side of their barn that's still solid and secure, so they don't really need to build anything for them, just find them feed.

Diego looks the sleigh over for a bit.  He wants to try putting skis on their little cart for the ponies.

Nira gets a pitcher and I give her some of the goat's milk.  She sees the nature trivia game in the wagon and wants it for the kids for Christmas.  I tell her I had planned to loan her some games, that I wanted to trade this one that the boys don't care for.  She is adamant that she wants it.  I ask her what she'd be willing to trade for it.  She starts getting mad because I won't let her take it for the kids.  I tell her my kids won't have presents this year either.  Husband and Diego come over to see what the fuss is about.

Husband asks Diego, "Do you want to trade the game for a couple of the bows?"

Diego asks, "Do you want them for the boys for Christmas?"

Husband says "Yes".

"Then take four.  You could have just asked".

Husband explains that we didn't feel comfortable taking their trade items just for presents.  We figured we'd find something they wanted to trade for before we asked.  Diego doesn't seem to care.  Nira's happy to have a present to wrap.  It doesn't seem like a fair trade to me, but I guess having something under the tree is more important to them than it is to me.

During supper I ask the boys if we still have that wood toy building set in the garage somewhere.  The wood pieces that came with it were really hard to work with, but the plans are in it to build cars, trucks, planes and boats.  I ask them if they think they could build some toys for the kids and Sally.  They decide to try and find it in the morning.

I look at the calendar again.  I'll have to make my own for next year.  Calendars would make good presents for the grown ups. I guess the whole present thing is easier than I thought it would be.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Day 54- I Sick

I have been sick for over a week now.  Nothing too serious, just a cold, but a doozey of a cold.  Of course everyone else got it too, so we haven't accomplished much.

Between naps I read through my herbal remedy notes over and over and over again.  They weren't making much sense.  I decided to start a list for common ailments and write down the herbs and remedies suitable for treating it.  It means I have more than one copy of things, but searching by plant when my head feels like a football just wasn't working.

Husband, of course, had an outbreak of gout to go along with his cold.  I made a list of treatments for it, then started on the common cold.  I should do the same for the flu, urinary infections, and other illnesses we're likely to encounter.  I'm mad at myself for not collecting more herbs and weeds through the summer while I had the opportunity.

Lisa's been a blessing through this illness, coming up everyday to cook and clean.  I'm amazed she hasn't caught it from my germy crew.  Husband borrowed the treadle sewing machine from Diego and Nira, and she's been sewing curtains for the cabin, and taking in some of the pants that I got from the flea market.

I'm finally starting to feel somewhat like myself again now, though my nose is still runny and my chest a bit congested.

I have a fair bit of OTC drugs here at home, but tried to treat everyone with herbs and natural remedies.  I did give everyone a dose of cough medicine before bed on the worst nights, and #1 and I both had a touch of an ear infection, so a few drops of polysporin.  That's when I started wondering, what would I do?  That polysporin bottle is so tiny, it won't last long. 

Now I'm armed with a list of natural remedies, but I have many ingredients to gather for next winter.  We'll have to make do with what I have to get through this winter.  Hopefully we won't pick up too many viruses, since we're not out and about socializing like we used to be.

The one thing I noticed that I'd never given any thought to before- q-tips!  What did people do before q-tips?  I have less than half a box of them.  I hid them in my room to keep the kids from wasting them.  I know you're not supposed to put anything smaller than your elbow in your ear, but I just seem to produce so much ear wax when I have a cold.  I suppose I could flush the wax with oil or water.  We still have one of those suction ball thingys from when #1 was a tot and had ear infections all the time, but I don't remember how to use it.  Q-tips will definitely be harder to replace than toilet paper.

I didn't have anywhere near enough hankies for this onslaught either.  I've had to cut two more sheets into hankies.  I've been washing them in a bucket in the tub everyday, with a bit of bleach, and it seems we're still out of them before the washed batch is dry.  I've been using the old kleenex boxes to store the hankies in, but that'll only work for a little while longer.  They're starting to wear out.  I don't really want to have a laundry basket exclusively for hankies, but I don't really have anything else suitable to store them in.  Would wooden kleenex boxes be too weird?  Maybe I'll think of something better when my head clears a bit more. 

We set up the tree.  I don't think anyone's given much thought to presents this year.  Thankfully #4 is the only one who still believes in Santa, so the older boys won't be too horribly disappointed.  I had a few things tucked away, found on sale through the year.  It won't be much, but at least it won't be barren.  We'll definitely need to put more effort into it in the future.

The Christmas tree also solved the rocket heater problem.  I had decorations stored in old coffee cans- metal coffee cans!  I wouldn't have thought to look there, lol.  I haven't got it put together yet, but once we're all feeling better we have what we need to make them.  Would outhouse rocket heaters make good presents for the extended family?

On a positive note, we finally got some snow.  Barely a foot, but enough that we don't have to go for water for awhile.  It also means we're feeding hay constantly though.  We may have to see about making a trade with the Hutterites for hay.  We haven't butchered Mindy, but we did butcher Lucy.  She hasn't produced in the 3 years she's been here, and we had planned to sell her.  I suppose I could have put her on the list at the feed store, but I really just wanted her not eating hay.  Besides, I'll probably have an easier time trading the Hutterites for a cow than a goat.

Snow also means the house isn't so drafty.  The boys walked around with the shovel and piled snow in snug around the base of the house, covering all the 'holes'- the basement vents, the spot where the satellite cables come in, the basement windows.  It's still not warm enough though.

Husband and I have been talking about a power source for the furnace fan.  If we take all of the car batteries and the old truck batteries and wire them together we might have a reasonable battery bank.  We only have a couple of those mini solar panels to charge them with though.  I dug out my windmill plans, but he doesn't think we get enough wind to bother- and we don't really have anything suitable for a pole.  He doesn't think a log would be strong enough.  He said he'd fiddle with things once he's feeling better.

In the meantime, the boys moved their bunk beds to the livingroom.  The tv, book shelves, coffee and end tables are all up in their rooms now.  We haven't sealed off the upstairs, just keeping the doors closed and the curtains drawn.  The livingroom is crowded but functional.

We haven't seen Brother's family, or my parents.  I hope they haven't caught this cold.  Lisa offered to check in on them, but I didn't want her spreading the germs if they aren't sick.

Hopefully we'll all be well in a few more days.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Day 44- Settling In

Lisa and Sally come up for breakfast this morning.  Lisa returns the hatchet and trades it for an axe.  She has most of the stubs flattened off now, and needs an axe to spit kindling.  She'll need to keep working on firewood as well, since there's not enough back there cut to last the winter.  She helps the boys with chores, and me with the dishes.  She's never been afraid of hard work, and it's good to have her around.

The girls come to get the Littles and the wagon to go to school.  Sally asks if she can go too.  Lisa is a little concerned about them being separated, but I assure her Sally will be safe.  #1 goes with them and takes the .22.  He'll go hunting while they're at school.

#2 gets the smaller cart ready with Tori, and helps me load laundry.  I take one of my big stock pots as well, since it's too cold to use water from the creek.  We put four of the chickens in a cage and take them and a bale of hay with us as well.

I take the water filter off the tub at the creek.  It's frozen solid, and they'll need it in the cabin.  I use some baler twine to tie it to the wall inside, and set the stock pot below.  Once we've filtered enough water through, it goes on the stove top to heat.  I empty the oldest of the lye water buckets into the tub, dump the ashes, and refill it with ashes from the stove.  Lisa scooped them out with her hands this morning, but she'll need a shovel and a metal bucket for future use.

#2 sets up a little chicken pen with another log cabin coop for the birds.  The thin layer of snow keeps them from being able to feed well, but I notice a piece of rotting firewood that's full of trails at the end.  Lisa splits it open, and we toss it in to the pen.  Full of ants, it'll feed the chickens well for today.  We cut a pine branch for them, and toss in a flake of hay.  They should be ok for a few days.  I tell Lisa that they're hers now, so she'll have to forage feed for them every day.

#2 takes the cart and goes back to the house.  He and Husband are going to see Diego and Nira.

When the water has boiled, I pour a bit into one of the laundry buckets, fill the coffee pot, and take the rest out to the tub.  Lisa washes the bucket with a bit of lye water, and rinses it out.  That'll be their drinking water storage.  She takes in another bucket of water from the creek to filter and boil.  She puts a pine needle branch in the coffee pot on the stove to steep.

I'm almost done my laundry when she comes outside to the tub.  It's too cold to be too picky about how clean the laundry is, and we seem to change clothes less and less frequently these days, so there's not a lot to do, mostly just socks and underwear.  We add more lye water to the tub and start on Lisa's things.  Sil arrives with a basket of laundry to wash as well.  I think they've met before, but I introduce them anyway.  Lisa hangs her things on the line, while Sil and I leave ours in baskets to go home.

The second pot of water has boiled, the bucket to drink is filled, and a third bucket is filtered and put on the stove to boil.  I bring in another stump to sit on, and we drink our pine needle tea and chat.

The drafts in the cabin are really bad.  The bucket of clay is warm and gooey, so we fill chinks in the walls.  Once it's empty, we refill the bucket and take it in to defrost.  We wash up in the bath tub, then drain the water out.

Husband and #2 arrive.  Diego has started a little hobby, making bows and arrows from a pile of PVC pipe he found in one of the sheds.  Husband has brought one with him, a gift.  Diego thinks they'll make good trade items.  I think it's great, and perfect timing, too.  We leave the bow with Lisa.  It's the only weapon she has.  She shouldn't need it for protection, no one is likely to be wandering that far back in the woods, but if she practices and becomes a decent shot she might be able to get a few birds or a fox with it.  I'd like at least three more for the Bigs and I.  It would save ammunition for hunting.  I'll have to think about something to trade with them.

We load the laundry and go to Brother and Sil's.  Brother has been busy hunting, and has two fox skins nailed to the side of the cabin.  He's feeding the meat to their chickens.  I think that's great.  That'll help with the predator situation, as well as the chicken feed.  He's gotten some partridge and a couple of rabbits.  He's also built shelves in front of the window.  Sil wants to plant something in the window.  She's got a bucket of dirt that she dug up before the freeze, but needs some pots and seeds.

We go back to our place.  Sil hangs my laundry for me.  I get a bunch of pots from the garden shed.  I had wanted to start some kale in the house, but hadn't been motivated enough to get it done. No time like the present.

I sort through my stash of seeds and pick out kale, swiss chard and lettuce.  We each plant a pot full of each.  Then I plant an extra set for Diego and Nira.  Hopefully they'll provide enough fresh greens to keep us all through the winter.  We take Sil home, then Lisa and I go back to the cabin to put up some shelves in front of the window. 

Everyone returns from school.  Sally had a fun day.  It's the first time she's been out with other kids since the blackout started.  #1 got two partridge on his hunting trip.  He saw a couple of friends from school, and they made plans to go ice fishing together as soon as the lakes freeze.

Lisa and Sally stay for supper with us again, then walk back to the cabin.  I am really tired, considering I didn't really do that much today.  I have a bit of a chill, but it's probably from the laundry.  I go to bed early.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Day 43- New Arrivals

Oh, it is definitely winter now.  We've still barely got any snow, the ground isn't even completely covered.  But it is cold, cold, cold.  -28°C through the day, and colder overnight.

In the last few days, Husband and the Bigs helped Brother clean his chimney, and taught Diego how to do his.  Dad's of course, was already done. 

Work with the horses continues.  There's not enough snow yet to practice with the sleigh.  Niece1 has driven the Littles and the kids in to school twice.  One of the Bigs go with them, just in case, but it looks like she has a handle on it.  The girls teach a little, read a lot, and help some of the older kids with projects.  The school system is more of an entertainment for bored kids than an actual classroom.  They all have fun with it though.

The honey is gone, and I'm using sugar in my tea.  Husband doesn't want to risk the trip to the Hutterite village yet.

I've been trying to be a hermit, staying in the house where it's warm, but eventually I have to go out to the outhouse.  I put my foot down on the overnights though.  It's frigid enough to use the outhouse through the day, I am not going out there at night.  The boys, thankfully, agreed to help with daily waste disposal, because they don't want to go out through the night either.  Husband calls us all a bunch of wussies.  I hope his arse freezes to the toilet seat.

We talked about putting a wood stove in the outhouse, but nobody wants to stay out there and get it going.  We don't have one we could use for it anyway, since we were surprised by the niece from the other side. I think a rocket stove might be a good idea, but I need to find some cans for it.  The best I can come up with is a paint can, since all of our empty coffee cans are plastic.

The niece from the other side, Lisa, showed up two days ago with her daughter, Sally.  Her parents were killed shortly after the blackout started.  They're never prepared for anything, and had to go scavenging for food.  It didn't go well for them.  She stayed with her sister at her sister's boyfriend's parents' place until this week, when she decided to try making the trip to our place.  Things were uncomfortable for her there, an outsider, and as their supplies have been running low, it was getting worse.  She thought about heading south, to her other sister, but realized that would put her in the same position, a burden on someone else's family.  If they were still alive, they'd surely be with his family.

So Lisa took Sally and started walking north.  They hid in the trees and slowly made their way around the towns, avoiding people, making their way north.  We were surprised to see them when they arrived at our place.  I had expected her parents to show up within the first week.  We haven't talked to them in a couple of years, but I expected them to show up expecting us to take care of them.  When they didn't, and the weeks went by, I figured they had moved out west before the black out.  I was happy to not have to deal with them, and never gave them another thought.  Until yesterday.

Lisa and Sally arrived with nothing but the clothes on their backs and a blanket each.  No food, no supplies, not even a change of clothes.  We fed them twice yesterday, though they look thin enough they could have eaten a third or fourth meal.  They slept in the add-a-room last night, but today we'll move them down to the cabin Diego and Nira had started in the fall.

They don't come in before breakfast is ready, so I send the Littles out to wake them up.  They're awake, sitting huddled in a corner.  It's freezing in there, but they're afraid to come in and bother us.  The Littles tell them to come in for breakfast.

After we eat and they warm up, we all walk down to the cabin together.  It's just an empty shell, with the wood stove at one end.  Husband gets a fire burning.  The Bigs get to work on the outhouse.  The hole should have been deeper, but the ground is frozen now.  It'll have to be moved in the spring.  I show Lisa and sally the pile of clay that was dug out of the hole, work some loose and take it into the cabin.  After it warms up I'll show them how to fill the chinks the in the walls.  The north side is done, so most of the wind will be blocked.  Husband cuts a few trees to start making a bunk and shelves.

The Littles and I show Lisa and Sally around the pasture, the creek, and the bath tub.  I explain the lye water for laundry, that we were bringing the horses back here to graze, that we'd been picking edible weeds for vegetation.  There's none of that now, but Lisa can cut pine needles for tea.  The five of us walk back to the house, leaving Husband and the Bigs to work.

I get the small cast iron pan out of the trailer, a couple of small pots, two knives, forks, spoons, plates, cups, and glasses.  I grab a bowl and a wooden spoon.  It's not much, but it's just the two of them.  The Littles get two extra blankets and a pillow for each of them.  I pack up a box of groceries- 2 jars of weeds, 1 jar of beets, 1 jar of pickles, 2 jars of jam, 5 pounds of potatoes, 2 pounds of carrots, a few onions, half a bag of flour.  #4 gets the salt and pepper shaker from the trailer, #3 gets three candles.  I get two small roasts, a package each of stew meat, ground beef, and beans, and put them in a small cooler.  We have more than enough to carry, so we head back to the cabin.

The Bigs have put together a very rudimentary shelter for the outhouse.  I was complaining about our outhouse being cold, but it's a palace by comparison.  Husband has the built a loft for them to sleep in, over the end of the cabin.  He's putting the final touches on a ladder for them.  We toss the blankets and pillows up, then Sally tests the ladder and makes the bed.

The Bigs cut more trees for shelves, counter and table.  They fasten them together like thin rafts, and nail them into place against the north wall.  The table top is the same, but lower, under the loft.  They level off a couple of stumps for chairs.  The cabin looks somewhat cozy after a day's work.  The boxes are unpacked and the shelves are filled with their meagre supplies.  Lisa is happy and grateful.  They'll be safe and warm, and not feeling like they're always in the way.

We walk back to our house for supper.  Everyone's hungry from missing lunch.  After supper I gather up some old towels.  I cut the worst one into rags, for personal hygiene.  I pack them into a box, with a bar of soap, a couple of toothbrushes, a wash cloth, a dish cloth, a tea towel, a plastic basin, an old coffee pot, a small strainer, and 4 eggs.  #1 gets the hatchet from the garage.  Lisa can use it to knock off any branch stubs that are left poking through the loft and shelves.  #4 gets a change of clothes for Sally from his dresser, and I find a couple pairs of jeans that should fit Lisa from the stash from the flea market.  I add a sweater and a t-shirt from my closet.  I add a piece of paper and a pencil, so Lisa can write down anything she thinks of that they really need.  Finally, I put a deck of cards in the box and we send them back to the cabin.

It's been a long day, and we're all exhausted, so we head off to bed after stocking the stoves.  The house is really too big to heat without the furnace fan blowing heat through the vents.