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.